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Do large organisations still matter today and, if so, why?

Large organisations do still matter. This does not give them the right to permanence; excuse them from the vital changes they must undergo, nor let them off the conversation around their long term viability. But, for now, here are 11 reasons why they still count.

1. They’re monuments to human endeavour. They're an accumulation of wisdom and effort that can stretch back generations. Anything that has been around a long time or had significant influence teaches us something about who we are.

2. Failure can be catastrophic, especially when there is no adequate alternative. The fall of a corporate or public giant is costly not just for those directly involved but communities as a whole. Imagine the cost if the NHS collapsed today.

3. They are communities in themselves. Large organisations are complex human networks, where, due to the lack of local community, people can find the community they instinctively seek.

4. They have the resources to nurture people in a way that fast-moving start-ups and small business struggle to do, from benefits in the short term to pension support in the long term.

5. They provide other businesses invaluable access to markets, resources, and talent while they grow, often at critical junctures; as with Microsoft’s early use of IBM.

6. The status and reach of large organisations can gather people in ways few can. Their convening power is a much-needed ingredient in terms of generating systemic change and holding the context for it to occur.

7. They can spawn entirely new sectors, or mass adoption of new technology, at a rapid pace; from as electric cars to smartphones. 

8. If we consider them as living things, large organisations and institutions can function more like entire ecosystems than single organisms; supporting the life cycle of a host of others as employers, funders, educators and huge consumers of goods and services.

9. Large organisations can act as a form of social architecture, like scaffolding, or the banks of a river system. Their presence allows for some stability and options whilst others grow, test and develop something new.

10. They provide huge amounts of voluntary giving, both in terms of time and money; from sponsorship of the arts to new hospital wings. Their ability to give single large sums can move necessary projects and initiatives forward in a more rapid or controlled fashion.

11. They can provide stable employment.

With all these benefits at work, a worthy challenge is, therefore, to shift the nature of large organisations to embrace the more human and organic characteristics now required to thrive. Large organisations that can make this leap will make a uniquely invaluable contribution to the issues of the day.

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  1. John Featherby

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