When we write our story of the past, we memorialise our journey, and this act of ossification is as true for organisations as it is for individuals. We chose one narrative as dominant, selectively filtering to give a coherence that may not always have been apparent when we were caught in the storm. The gift of retrospect is presumed foresight and situational clarity, perceived in hindsight. Objects in the rear view mirror may not look exactly like the ones we drove past.
Mythology is important: it houses our identity, cultural cohesion, sense of purpose, validation of self and organisation, and provides a sense of belonging and momentum. We feel that we are both connected to our past and, potentially, part of the mythology to be written in the future.
But there is a thing about mythology, a thing about memorials: they may well have great power, and persist, but they often do so long after the things that they cherish have gone.
It’s important that we write our mythology with pride, but equally important to rewrite it, adapt it, and leave some notions behind. Celebrated and respected, but recognised as no longer current. Certainly from an organisational perspective, the risk of myth is significant, trapping us in silken bonds, constraining us from the change we need in the present.
Perhaps one way we can moderate myth is through dynasties: the dynastic organisation is understood: the social hero CEO, the Age of Establishment, the Age of Expansion, ultimately, if we are not self aware and dynamic, the Age of Decline. A dynasty would not simply be the tenure of an individual, but rather a movement, at scale. It must represent a systemic adaptation.
If culture describes the actions of every individual, in the moment, perhaps it’s surrounded by, framed by, the mythology, and grounded within a dynasty. So in our everyday, we do not necessarily consider these things, but the forces of mythology may provide some hard edges around culture, and may permeate the conversations, and everyday actions, that make that culture real.