Next Generation Corporation

A catalyst for Cranmore Foundation’s work was the challenge that one CEO posed for himself and his company.

How can we create the next generation corporation?

His energy-intensive Fortune 500 company has large-scale initiatives in CSR and in CO2 reduction. Although absolutely necessary he thought they barely scratched the surface and was looking for new thinking that could redefine the meaning of a successful multinational. The requirement – get better at what we do, but reach beyond short-term profit and aim for new design criteria where every process and action solves or contributes to the solution of systemic problems — problems directly related to company performance, but also to the greater environment the company operates in. It would also mean that this ‘next-generation corporation’ would not only diminish economic, social and ecological challenges, but would do it in way that added value and inspiration to each of these fields.

At first glance, such an endeavour seems implausible and to many even dangerously unrealistic — especially to company shareholders. But similar ‘unrealistic projects’ have been successful by applying new regenerative design principles – such as the Cradle-to-Cradle methods of production.

Cranmore Foundation hopes to contribute to an understanding of how to create the next-generation corporation through the discovery of design principles that foster sustainability. Its work is based on the premise that regenerative design principles exist in Nature and that a closer look at these will provide new solutions for pressing problems.

The starting point for the Foundation’s research is a new and possibly unexpected resource: the world’s wisdom traditions. Cranmore Foundation approaches wisdom traditions, not in a religious sense, but as the secular study of a storehouse of sensible knowledge about the way things work and ought to work. From this perspective these traditions can be seen as repositories of wisdom based on human experience acquired over aeons. Many of them identify and describe principles that can be observed operating in everything — principles that outline the best way to operate on a personal, organisational, national and global level.

For centuries wisdom knowledge was only available in monasteries or at royal courts, whereas now, most of these texts are readily available in book stores and on the internet. Nevertheless, there is a tendency to still regard them as religious or moral codes and it is only in the last twenty-five years that wisdom and how its acquired has attracted the attention of science, philosophy and academia. In mainstream culture wisdom ideas have recently struck a cord with business-people, for instance The Art of War by the Chinese author Sun Tzu, or ancient India’s Bhagavad-Gita. The challenge is whether we can unlock the real value of this knowledge, distilling functional design principles that have application for corporations, organisations and governments – allowing them to successfully reach their goals while at the same time avoiding the destructive side effects that often accompany their actions.

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