Distinguished Professorial Address: Arie De Geus

The Case for Fundamental Change in Business Management

16 October 2014

In the last 50 years, the “Western” world has seen some fundamental societal changes which are not reflected in the business world.

People have changed: since the Second World War there has been an explosion of autonomy (what Alain de Vulpian calls “emancipation”), a move away from “command and control from the top down” that has led to fundamental changes in the way we run our families (Father is no longer "Boss" in most European countries!), but little has changed in the way we run our companies.

The Economic game has changed: money/capital is no longer scarce nor is it the primary success factor in business - people and human talent are. Yet, we run most PLC companies as if we were still in the 19th Century, for the short-term maximisation of profits.

So, what is needed to bring business into the 21st century?

Video interview

Arie De Gues in conversation with Dr Carol Jarvis, Associate Professor at UWE Bristol.

Biographical notes

Arie de Geus is the originator of many of the principles and practices underlying the concept of the 'Learning Arie De GeusOrganisation'. As the former head of Strategic Planning for Royal Dutch Shell, Arie's belief is that the key to corporate success and longevity lies more in people and learning than in financial assets.

After his retirement, Arie pursued his ideas about organisational learning, which culminated in a number of notable papers and the publication of his book in 1997, 'The Living Company: Habits for Survival in a Turbulent Business Environment' (Harvard Business School Press). He now helps organisations of all kinds to reorganise and prepare for their futures.

Arie spent several years heading an advisory group to the World Bank and working as an advisor to the Office of the Auditor General in Canada and to the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Communications (Rijkswaterstaat).

He has also been a Visiting Fellow at London Business School and Co-Chairman of the Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce. He is one of the founders of the Society of Organisational Learning (SOL) and an advisor to the Daedalus Trust.

Back to top