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Resource: The Data of Long-lived Institutions from The Long Now Foundation

This is an interesting set of pieces of information about the kinds of institutions that last a really long time, and the strategies that allow them to do so.

Transcript here. A couple of extracts below to whet your appetite, and video below them.

Which institutions last the longest?

…There’s no system in the world that I’ve found that is linear that has lasted on these timescales. You need to have a cyclical business model, not a linear business model…

As I mentioned, most of the oldest companies in the world are in Japan. In a survey of 5,500 companies over 200 years old, 3,100 are based in Japan. The rest are in some of the older countries in Europe. 

But—and this was a fact I found curious, and one that speaks to the cyclical nature of things—90% of the companies that are over 200 years old have 300 employees or less; they’re not mega companies.

In surveying 1,000 companies over 300 years old, you find a huge amount of disparity concerning which industries they’re a part of. But there were a few big groupings that I found interesting. 23% are in the alcohol industry, and this doesn’t even include pubs and restaurants and hotels that may sell alcohol.

The Continual Refresh

…the University of Bologna, which is largely credited as the earliest university in the world. It’s almost 1000 years old at this point. Oxford was shortly behind it. And there’s another 40 or so universities over 500 years old.

Universities have this ability to do a kind of continual refresh where every four years, especially in undergraduate programs, you have a whole new set of people. And so they have to sell themselves to a new generation every single year. Their customer is a whole class. And we see universities now struggle when they aren’t teaching relevant things to people and they have to adjust. And that has kept them around as some of the longest lived institutions in the world. 

Alexander RoseThe Date of Long-Lived Institutions

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