Nowhere is it more important to understand the relationship between parts and wholes than in the evolution of global institutions and the larger systems they collectively create.
—ARIE DE GEUS, THE LIVING COMPANY
Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company and a pioneer of the organizational learning movement, says that the twentieth century witnessed an emergence of a new species on earth: large institutions, notably, global corporations. This is a historic development. Prior to the last 100 years, there were few examples of globe-spanning institutions. But today, global institutions are proliferating seemingly without bound, along with the global infrastructures for finance, distribution and supply, and communication they create.
The expansion of this new species is affecting life for almost all other species on the planet. Historically, no individual, tribe, or even nation could possibly alter the global climate, destroy thousands of species, or shift the chemical balance of the atmosphere. Yet that is exactly what is happening today, as our individual actions are mediated and magnified through the growing network of global institutions. That network determines what technologies are developed and how they are applied. It shapes political agendas as national governments respond to the priorities of global business, international trade, and economic development. It is reshaping social realities as it divides the world between those who benefit from the ...