On March 20th of this year we marked the hundred and one year anniversary of Napoleon’s land grab – an obscure law which allowed the French state to seize and sell off plots of village common land. Back in 1813, Napoleon used the land grab as a way to generate much needed francs to combat the devastating deficit which continued to increase post his failures at war.

Fast-fPainting : Napoleon at Fontainbleauorward a hundred years and land grabbing continues to exist. Lester Brown’s article “Food, Fuel, and the Global Land Grab” describes how emerging trends such as wealthy countries now leasing or buying farms in poorer countries are measures used to secure future supplies. The results as he shares could prove to create future economic disparities and even food wars.

But how does the term land grab connect to the way we approach business today?

Drawing parallels from Napoleon’s era and applying it to business, a form of land grabbing is seen as “securing resources”. Resources could be both inanimate and animate. Include but not limited to budgets, processes, and people. We are today operating in a state that requires us to constantly be engaged in some form of land grabbing. A jockeying of position exists even if our ultimate goals remain aligned.

But what we learn from history is that land grabbing wasn’t always a successful endeavor. In fact, Napoleon’s strategy proved to generate sums much smaller than they had originally estimated. Within North American colonial history we see the challenges even today between aboriginals and there contested rights and dues.

So what are the long term ramifications of our land grabbing mentality applied to business? What can we learn by studying our history and applying those lessons?

I’m not sure. What I do know is that our constant need to secure talent, budgets, and positions exists today.


The Modern Day Land Grab

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