Organisations Losing Their License to Operate


Social License

The term ‘license to operate’ was used by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) in their inquiry into ‘Tomorrow’s Company’ published in 1995. They found that business could be a force for good and for those organisations taking a different path, society would withdraw their ‘licence to operate’. This is now being termed as an organisations 'social license to operate'. 

Losing the License

In today’s emerging metamodernist society, machine organisations are increasingly seen as not being a force for good.  Their pursuit of shareholder value, above everything else, is being blamed for rampant consumerism, environmental degradation, climate breakdown, inequality and psychological illness.  Increasingly people are protesting and calling for an end to harmful business practices.  The protests include the Occupy Movement in the financial sectors around the world, boycotts of products containing palm oil, the rejection of single use plastics and the rise of Extinction Rebellion.

Symptoms of Misalignment

It is clear that in today’s society, machine organisations find it increasingly difficult to survive and thrive.  They are now becoming so misaligned they are losing their ‘social licence to operate’.   The early indicators of this misalignment will include a reduction in sales, high levels of staff turnover, difficulty recruiting talent, lack of diversity and inclusion, struggling to cope with change, and more.


To become realigned with the new emerging metamodernist society, organisations now need to behave more like ecosystems. Our work enables organisations to behave more like ecosystems through growing people, cultivating leadership, evolving teams and regenerating organisations.

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