The Local Corporation

Globalism has been created in the growth of the corporation. As local enterprises, founded and worked by local people grew they lost their local roots. Where once the firm was family owned, with generations following each other into the same enterprise, as owners or workers, now it is owned, financed and controlled globally. We no longer know our bosses, they ply their trade in far away cities, in other countries. Connection is distant, even vestigial. We are managed by process and procedure and have become servants to them. Our work is to fulfil a role with little allegiance from the body corporate. We are subservient to vague straplines, meaningless mission statements and mendacious corporate communications.

The gains we make from such ‘progress’ are exploitative. We take the best people and the profit from the local and trade them globally. In the same way that over-farming strips the soil of its nutrient or that removing the vegetation exposes that soil to the elements, when we concentrate talent and money and power centrally we degrade the local eco-system and begin its inevitable decline. Sustainable environments are symbiotic, the soil is replenished through the growth it creates.

If the global business is to find a sustainable balance it must attend to the local as well as the global. This is to see unique local cultures as the source of growth, not discrepancies that must be forced to confirm to a global ‘way of working’. A healthy local culture teaches us how to use the corporation in order to grow. It connects the history, memories and stories of the place with the changes afoot in the environment. It provides a way to make sense of them, together, a way to work out difference and garner understanding.

It is a paradox of life in an eco-system that our actions often lead to consequences that are the exact opposite of those intended. The growth created by globalisation kills corporations that cannot learn to reconnect to their local enterprises. At the local interface between the corporation and its environment is a rich opportunity for learning, learning about the corporation, the environment and the relationship between them. As each local entity explores this learning and develops its response, it consciously or unconsciously is figuring out how the corporation might adapt and so survive.

The variation this creates is feared and despised by the global centre. As it squashes each initiative, either directly or simply through insistence on compliance with global policy or disinterest, it squashes its own capacity for endless adaptation and thus hastens its own demise. If the global corporation is to survive into the future, now, at its moment of strength, it must rediscover what nourishes its local roots.

Lasting change in the form of this enduring adaptation cannot come from the centre. A corporate driven change programme with its slogans, conformity and compliance is the antithesis of successful adaptation. You cannot generate adaptation through control. It requires the courage to subsume the corporate ego, to loosen the reins, and to open the corporate intelligence to the possibility of learning from the boundaries rather than the core.

The leadership to nourish this change and to nurture it, is founded in generosity, compassion and humility. It requires recognising the brilliance of others, not in comparison to what is already deemed to be good, but of its self for what it might bring. If only we have the courage to support it.

The future of globalism is in the local corporation set free from the dead hand of centralised control. The future is in recognising globalism as a part of a living eco-system, that when tended to and respected will flourish. Trees grow from the leaves and the roots. The dead wood is in the trunk.

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