Rethinking the Enterprise

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Rethinking the Enterprise

Competitiveness, Technology and Society

The challenges of the 21st century are immense: implementing a more sustainable development model, maintaining markets and societies as open as possible, deploying entrepreneurial dynamism in the service of the common good, boosting employment, reindustrializing Western countries while promoting the development of emerging countries. ... How can we better focus our extraordinary creative capacity to meet the challenges ahead?

If there is a key trend in our time, it is that of the progress of science and technology. This trend has become a steamroller, whatever the vagaries of history and economic conditions. It is enterprise that transforms, often as soon as they emerge, scientific knowledge and technologies into products and services. By mastering the methods and tools of techno-science, it has the power of knowledge behind its economic strategies. Techno-science constantly provides new opportunities and more powerful competitive weapons. Enterprise is therefore the main mediator between science and society. Yet is it an agent of progress?

This essay explores the key role enterprise could play in the transformation of the economic system. By changing its culture, it can be a powerful tool to better meet the global challenges of our century. De Woot proposes that a spirit of enterprise, creativity and innovation are necessary responses to societal challenges. Although the current economic model is the source of major deviations, enterprise in the broadest sense can help correct many of them. From *problem* it can become *solution*.

For de Woot, the question is not to curse or contradict the enterprise but to revisit its purpose, its raison d’être. In this task he is at his best. Using Greek myths he takes us back to the forgotten fundamentals of the economic saga:  enterprise’s vocation is to be creative and innovative. The entrepreneur is there to change the existing order and this is neither simple nor without danger. This essay is thought provoking. It is vital to read it to find at the same time pleasure and ideas. It is so rare…!

Jean-Pierre Hansen, GDF-Suez

The author invites us to rethink the enterprise in its contribution to society rather than as a machine to produce profit while the stakeholders are reduced to “externalities” ... The author deploys an immense wisdom and delivers a message of hope… A striking book.

Bruno Colmant, Louvain School of Management

Author’s note


1. Drifts and deviations of the market economy

1.1 A high-performing model

1.2 Globalisation and autonomy of economic power

1.2.1 Increasing power of economic players

1.2.2 Power disconnected from politics and ethics

1.3 Unwanted systemic effects, drifts and deviations

1.3.1 Damage to the planet

1.3.2 Poverty, inequality, precariousness

1.3.3 Weakening of social ties

1.3.4 Financial domination

1.3.5 Behavioural drift

2. Rethinking the purpose of business

2.1 Economic creativity: specific function of business enterprise

2.2 Ambiguity of economic and technical creativity

2.3 Transforming creativity into progress

3. A responsible entrepreneurial culture

3.1 Restoring ethical and civic dimensions to corporations

3.1.1 Back to ethics

3.1.2 Back to citizenship and the ‘political’

3.2 Areas of progress: entrepreneurship, leadership, statesmanship

3.2.1 Entrepreneurship: the entrepreneur, creator of progress and not just profit

3.2.2 Leadership: leaders, architects of creativity and collective consciousness

3.2.3 Statesmanship: executives as citizens, societal dimension and new consultation

PHILIPPE DE WOOT is Emeritus Professor at Louvain Catholic University in Belgium, where he taught Business Policy, Strategic Management and Business Ethics. He is actively committed to researching and promoting CSR. 


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