What is an emergent business?

We are in the middle of a transition to an economy with a much greater number of purpose-driven organisations, who use their business to achieve success beyond the bottom line. Companies like Patagonia, Riverford Organics and Hiut Denim are redefining what 'success' looks like, rewriting the business rulebook in the process.

As new business models and technologies emerge, and the economy evolves, many organisations are being left behind and need to adapt to survive and thrive. The rules are changing - what used to work no longer does. 

We believe that to be successful in this time of rapid, constant change means building a new type of business - an emergent business. Emergent businesses embrace change and have high expectations of why they exist. It's not about being in a certain sector or having a particular legal structure. It’s not about technology, or size. It’s about aspiration. A code of values and a way of operating that sets you apart. It’s about demanding more from your business - making it the servant of your purpose, not the other way around. It’s about taking the best ideas, tools and methods - wherever you find them - and applying them in new ways to make your business fit for this new era. 

There are eight success factors that we believe differentiate emergent businesses from their peers:

Be purposeful - a clear mission should sit at the heart of your organisation. If you can't answer questions like "why does this organisation exist? Why was it founded? What is the future you are trying to create?", chances are your purpose has been lost

Live your values - have a code of ethics for behaviour throughout your organisation, from the boardroom to the lowliest intern. Values  the organisation and everyone in it can be, and is, held accountable to. This is more than words on a website or in marketing collateral, but evidenced by action. Say what you mean. Do what you say

Build resilience - embrace decentralisation, diversity and distribution across your business, to cope with the inevitable shocks and change you will face. The more your ecosystem is invested in and supported, the more resilient your organisation becomes

Embrace change - build a culture that is adaptive, that actively looks for and embraces change, looking ahead for opportunities and threats. Don't bury your head in the sand when change appears

Look outwards - adopt a collaborative mindset, seeking engagement with partners (and sometimes even rivals) to deliver more to the customers, communities and stakeholders you serve

Invest in your community - commit to supporting the communities, environments and eco-systems you rely upon. Invest in the resources and capital they need to survive and prosper - whether financial, human, natural and social

Consider everyone - recognise that all stakeholders should be considered when making decisions and building your business. AIm to maximise value in its broadest sense, not just shareholder return

Free your people - build a culture that treats people with respect, and that encourages and empowers every individual to be all that they are capable of. Value every voice

Whatever your sector, whatever your legal structure, and whatever your mission, applying these principles to the design of your business will set you apart, and put you on the right path to long-term success.

Don’t follow the crowd. Be different. Build a business that really matters. 


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