Invitation to Eden: The Natural Potentials and Cultural Limitations of Corporate Strategy
(A paper in 2 Parts by William C. Frederick, 2009)
The principal intended audience for this paper is that executive group responsible for crafting a corporation’s strategy and making it work over an extended period of time. My goal is to clarify the possibilities and cultural limitations they face, so that their task can go forward with more assurance of achieving a desired outcome. Why then, you may wonder, does the paper appear in this academic venue that is only rarely read by practicing business executives? It is because my other audience is composed mainly of academic theorists who as experts on the subject of corporate strategy may occasionally influence the thinking of a company’s strategists. So, the paper appeals both to the practical and the conceptual dimensions of a central business function, hoping to convince both groups that something of value may be discovered here.
The tale will be shaped as a Biblical allegory. Eden here is the natural state of the earth containing all forms of life, including humans. Present within Eden are two natural forces with enormous potentials for human life and growth: a Tree of Life, and a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Fruit from the Tree of Life extends human life indefinitely. Fruit from the other tree enables normative judgments to be made. Well, as you know (if you have read the original Eden story), either God or God’s chroniclers let things get out of hand rather rapidly, for in no time at all, women were put down, men were given life sentences of hard work, and the world’s first two newborn brothers wound up fighting until one murdered the other. As time went on, different groups split up and battled one another, corrupting the entire world scene. (Sound familiar?) This was just too much for God who then drowned almost everyone on earth so there could be a new beginning. One might well believe this episode was the world’s first recorded strategic miscalculation. This paper welcomes you to today’s Eden. It’s all still there, as in the original.
“Eden I” describes the principal components of Eden’s Tree of Life—but in the modern language of science. The story will be woven from a network of natural sciences: evolutionary biology, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, behavioral economics, ecology, and certain aspects of physical science. Emerging from these ideas will be two indispensable perspectives for understanding and successfully implementing corporate strategy: a nature-derived grasp of Eden’s dominant behavioral impulses and capabilities, along with an ecological dynamic that channels and drives corporate strategy. In simpler terms, behavior and environment plus their links to each other. In Biblical allegorical terms, the Tree of Life, and the role it plays within today’s Eden.
“Eden II” tackles what might be called Eve’s Dilemma—whether today’s corporate strategists should be persuaded to taste the forbidden fruit of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thereby gaining a God-like ability to know right from wrong, certainly an awesome responsibility. As most know, Eve paid quite a price for being beguiled by the Serpent to nibble the apple and feed it to Adam. In Eden II, we shall explore Eve’s Dilemma in its modern guise as the central puzzle of corporate strategy.