Meaning makes money.
—Joey Reiman, contemplating The Story of Purpose
From the Ten Commandments to David Letterman’s Top 10 list, human beings have always enjoyed making lists. Guest lists, to-do lists, best-dressed lists, and best-seller lists are just a few entries on the laundry list of lists. But only one list keeps score of the capitalism race: the Fortune 500, the annual list that ranks the top 500 US companies by revenue.
Created in 1955 by Fortune magazine’s editors as an internal resource for writers and columnists so that they’d know which companies to focus on, the Fortune 500 has been the list to get on and stay on. This list is supposed to highlight the changes and trends that are reshaping corporate America.
And that is precisely why the list is defunct.
The Fortune 500 was created in 1955, a time of prosperity and optimism in America. Business was in business for business and was putting shareholder value first. Revenue and profit at any expense helped build companies like GM, Exxon Mobil, and Walmart—the only three companies to make the number 1 spot on the list.1 The American dream promised that if you focused your business on the bottom line, you too could make the list.
Unfortunately, when you focus only on the bottom line, everyone races to the bottom. And apparently we are there. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has been polling more than 1,000 adults every day since 2008, shows that Americans feel worse ...