The average lifespan of a U.S. S&P 500 company has fallen by 80% in the last 80 years (from 67 to 15 years). In stark contrast, organizations in other sectors, like NASA, celebrate their 100th birthday and look like they’ll be here forever.

In what ways do they defy conventional wisdom, and what can others learn from them?

Most businesses focus on serving customers, owning resources, being efficient and growing, and the Centennials don’t. Instead, they try to shape society, share experts, create accidents and focus on getting better, not bigger. They’re radically traditional with a stable core, but a disruptive edge. And that’s what keeps them ahead.

Crucially, they don’t hire leaders with massive egos; as the New Zealand All Blacks say, “No dickheads!” Instead, they find humble leaders, who are keen to learn, and who are more concerned about the organization they’ll leave behind than how it looks while they’re there.

Regarding competition, they want to stay ahead, not emulate them. So they work out who’s the best in the world at something and try to learn from them.

And finally, rather than trying to be efficient, by putting similar people together, they offer opportunities for people to work on different projects, to create movement and bumps. So employees from various disciplines continually question each other, and share problems, ideas, and opportunities.


Inspired by: Harvard Business Review - How Winning Organizations Last 100 Years, by Alex Hill, Liz Mellon, and Jules Goddard