Secret to longevity

Read an article by an ex-executive of Shell Corporation. It reports on material and significant findings of research project (http://www.businessweek.com/chapter/degeus.htm ) that was designed to establish which factors account for the survival of companies (for more than 500 years).

Read it - its fascinating. If you are in a hurry - here is a short summary of the findings:

1. Sensitivity to the environment represents a company's ability to learn and adapt.

2. Cohesion and identity, it is now clear, are aspects of a company's innate ability to build a community and a persona for itself.

3. Tolerance and its corollary, decentralization, are both symptoms of a company's awareness of ecology: its ability to build constructive relationships with other entities, within and out-side itself.

4. Conservative financing is a very critical corporate attribute: the ability to govern its own growth and evolution effectively.

As usual the research raises further questions, but more about that at another time. I would summarise the findings as follows:
* Adaptable (point 1 + 3)
* Clarity Purpose/Vision (no 2)
* Smart resourcing. (no 4)

How basic is that? And why can't more companies do it?

There is an inherent tension in having a clear purpose and being sensitive/ adaptable at the same time. My very simplistic take is that the very delicate balance is thrown out by greed/ corporate politics: when the people become more important than the purpose.