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Purpose: Darwinian Medicine

Purpose: Darwinian Medicine

The great business dynasties have wisely demonstrated their ability to apply perspective, responsibility, and common sense in turbulent times. From their cohesion and balance between corporate governance and family management, we can learn many lessons that will help us navigate scenarios like the present crisis and emerge stronger than ever.

Manuel Bermejo, Professor at IE Business School

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We are living in uneasy times, thanks to the pandemic of the (unfortunately) now-famous coronavirus. When we reflect on the link between entrepreneurial families and this severe crisis, we are inspired to look to the leaders of successful, longstanding family-owned companies. The lessons we can learn from them are especially welcome now.

In these turbulent times, it is more important than ever to act responsibly, calmly, and with common sense.

Purpose and perspective

As the great business dynasties know very well, it is important to have a little perspective and understand that, sooner or later, there will be a calm after the storm. Making money for shareholders in the short term is not the point. Real entrepreneurial families survive because they have a purpose that connects them to society. Now more than ever, we are seeing that this is true.

These great leaders are showing us that crises are always an opportunity. We are going to have a great opportunity to rethink our strategies, processes, risk maps, and everything else that day-to-day affairs tend to push onto the back burner. We will see that we need companies with a purpose; we will dedicate more time to training and come to understand that online education exists and works quite well; we will become deeply familiar with the advantages of telecommuting; and we will have more chances than ever before to enjoy our families, our children, and to take up new hobbies.

Unity and cohesion

Entrepreneurial families must understand that these rough seas are best negotiated with unity and cohesion. The complex ecosystem where business (reason) coexists with family (emotion) must be governed with an intelligent balance. Corporate governance and business management require total attention, but they must also be accompanied by the governance and management of the family itself in order to achieve the necessary alignment and the pride that comes from a sense of belonging.

Business families should reflect on the crucial question that defines their purpose: “What do we do this for?” From these presuppositions, they can generate the necessary passion to overcome the toughest challenges.

Families must understand that the key to sustainable success is to shrewdly combine the experience of the older generations with the innovative potential of the younger generations that carry digitalization and globalization in their genetic code.

Emerging stronger than ever

In light of the entrepreneurial leadership that permeates the action of so many business families, I am convinced that “Darwinian” medicine will be applied in this emergency situation, not only to adapt to the huge challenges brought about by this pandemic but to emerge stronger than ever once things return to normal.

We have recently seen—and will continue to see—extraordinary evidence of business leaders with a purpose: leadership emanating from civil society that will surely contribute to sustainable and inclusive development. This sort of purpose-driven leadership can win any battle, no matter how bloody.