DUBAI – Companies, like people, grow old. They start life small and eager to survive, fueled by youthful energy and fresh ideas. They compete, expand, mature, and eventually, with few exceptions, fade into obscurity. The same is true of governments: they, too, can lose the hunger and ambition of youth and allow themselves to become complacent.
Consider this: only 11% of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 still exist today, while the average time that companies stay in the top 500 has fallen from 75 years to 15 years. In this age of rapid change, those who lag behind become irrelevant– in a heartbeat. Countries whose governments grow old face the same fate as outdated companies. Their choice is simple: innovate or become irrelevant.
The race for national competitiveness is every bit as fierce as the competition among companies in the marketplace. Countries compete for investment, talent, growth, and opportunity in a globalized world, and those that are pushed out of the running surrender the greatest prize of all: human development, prosperity, and happiness for their people.
To avoid this fate, governments must focus on what really matters: how to be like the 11% of companies that have remained, through the decades, in the top 500. The lifecycle of companies should teach governments that the secret of eternal youth is constant innovation – seizing opportunities and behaving like the dynamic, entrepreneurial companies that are defining today’s world and shaping its future.