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The Corporation As You Know It Is Probably Obsolete

Posted on by Brandon Klein

By Umair Haque

There is a groundswell in new kinds of corporate forms that is gaining steam. Consider the rise of "for-benefit" corporations. They’re a new kind of corporate form, built from the ground up to create wealth, instead of being tiresomely legally bound to return maximum profit to shareholders.

Imagine, for a moment, the new organizational possibilities that the novel legal and contractual design of these organizations opens up, where bonuses are tied to marginal wealth attained by people, communities, and society, roles are created to manage benefits (think "chief impact officer"), and transparent accounts demonstrate real, meaningful benefits, not earnings. You’d have an organization geared to do explosively more than just buy and sell crap that’s slightly updated every year or so, on yesterday’s moldy old terms. You’d have instead an organization tuned not just to make stuff, but to have real relationships, to meaningfully enhance lives, to push the boundaries of elevating human potential, to laser-lock on to creating wealth, to do all the above in ways that matter, count, last, endure, inspire, amaze, and delight—and to do all the above habitually, consistently, and repeatedly.

You might begin to nervously ask yourself: 'Is there a bullet out there somewhere with my name on it?'

Now put that new arsenal of enterprise, its disruptive new set of capabilities, its unexplored, undeployed firepower in the hands of someone with the unsatisfied hunger, unyielding determination, and laser-sharp insight of a Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, or Richard Branson, and you might just begin to nervously ask yourself: "is there a bullet out there somewhere with my name on it?" Sure, the fact is that there’s no corporation in the world that works quite like this—yet. But the truth is that when there is, it’s going to put "business" as usual out of business.

Ultracompetition Can Only be Won Through Betterness

In the twentieth century, rivalry was most often about a single kind of counterorganization: competitors. That was yesterday: in the twenty-first century, a new range of insurgent counterorganizations must be contended with, hell-bent on toppling imperious incumbents from their comfy, cushy thrones. They are markets, networks, and communities composed of a huge variety of actors: NGOs, peer and trade groups, customer and supplier communities, activist investors, and labor organizations, to name just a few.

Hypercompetition is an increase of like-for-like competitive intensity. Ultracompetition is increased competitive intensity across new kinds of counterorganizations. This turns up the pressure dramatically. Ever consider students a counterorganization? Think again. At Harvard Medical School, students self-organized to pressure professors to stop accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies, citing a clear lack of interest and diluted objectivity. The result? Harvard profs stopped accepting gifts, and the structure of pharmaceutical marketing changed, just a tiny bit.