What can we learn from extremely old institutions?


October 29, 2020

Society has a fascination with people who are 100+ years old.

Whenever we hear of a centenarian, we inevitably try to figure out how they did it, dissecting their diet, daily routine, and priorities.

But that same curiosity seems to be lacking for long-lived institutions.

Thankfully, we have The Long Now Foundation

Established in 1996, the San Francisco-based non-profit seeks to promote long-term thinking. It recently released some data on long-lived institutions.

Among the highlights:

  • 2 countries rule: Of the 5.5k+ companies that are >200 years old, 56% are Japanese and 15% are German.
  • Most are small: Of these, 90% have fewer than 300 employees
  • Long-lasting industries: Looking at 1k companies >300 years old, the most-represented industries are alcohol (23%), hotels (12%) and restaurants (9%).
  • Company life is getting shorter in America: In 1950, the average Fortune 500 company was 61 years old; now, it’s only 18.

Here’s a look at the current longest-living Fortune 500 companies:

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