The gap between what we believe to be true and what’s really true can be significant: i’m not talking about religion, but rather in the stories we understand about organisations. The space they create around themselves for communities to form and brands to be built. Why is it of interest? Because in the Social Age, we are only as good as our stories: the value in our personal and organisational brand is created within the community, shaped by our actions and treatment of others over time.
I was talking earlier with someone from a charity that’s well over a hundred years old: they wove a story of change, of engagement, of real transformative action in the community, changing the lives of young people in desperate need of support. But my image of them was almost as old as they were: shaped by my formative years, when the closes i got to understanding what they did was someone shaking a tin outside the newsagent. In the intervening thirty years, nothing had displaced my dated notion. It was fixed.
When food goes out of date on the supermarket shelf, first they move it to the front, so you buy it first, then they take it out and throw it away. Or maybe give it to a shelter if they want some good PR. With organisational stories, we often do the opposite. We neither update our story nor share it into the right communities.
Any organisation’s ability to be effective is partly grounded in the quality of stories it shares within it’s community: does it listen, or does it just do? Does it change or is it static? Is is responsible or reckless?
Poor, outdated, weak or irrelevant organisational stories can make you outdated, lethargic and slow. In the Social Age, the stories are only partly under our control: they are shaped and directed by our community: see how the story of Nestle and the baby milk formula persists over decades, rooted in popular belief and community spaces.
This isn’t just a challenge for organisations: when reputation sits at the heart of our social authority, we need to consider how belief about our capability is formed in our communities. Are we up to date in the stories we tell, or woefully outdated? Does your LinkedIn profile paint a picture of who you are, or the person you were when you got here? Maybe it’s a call for better housekeeping, better storytelling and wise sharing: don’t be outdated by lethargy alone.
How do we decide what’s true about an organisation or individual? We do it based on our experience of them, and on the stories we find out about them. Don’t let yours be out of date.