Corporate Senescence

There comes a time in the life of every organism when it begins to decline. Its best days are behind it. Ominous signs of decay abound. The end can be envisioned — it’s no longer an abstract entity.

This concept applies equally well to corporations. Like organisms, companies also experience a lifecycle. An early period: sometimes tumultuous and violent with breathtaking growth, and other times a measured and gradual advancement. Maturity: coming into their own, their brand becomes associated with what they do — their principles and ideals The good ones win the love of their customers, and sometimes the world.

Finally, they reach senescence. The founders have either left or mentally checked out, or perhaps competition has become overwhelming. Or maybe the company’s first mission has become all but accomplished and it lacks a new direction. Not knowing what else to do, the organization marks its territory and tries to protect itself. This process takes many forms. However, once senescence has set in the company’s days are numbered.

Quality is no longer a priority. The old words are repeated but with little effect. Stuff about delighting customers, providing unparalleled value, not being evil, connecting people, etc. These become slogans of a former self. The organism no longer has the will, or the luxury, of acting on the principles that got it to where it is now.

Senescence is not bad. It’s not evil. It’s an inevitable stage in the lifecycle of an organism, and organizations are organisms. Some companies can even be reborn and find new life — the name is the same, perhaps, but much of the soul is replaced. Microsoft is a good example. It has come alive again in recent years. IBM also had a major second act, which is well into its final stages now.

What will we be saying of Google and Facebook 20 years from now?

Originally published at Gary Basin’s words.