As a brand, identity and communications strategist, I’m someone whose livelihood is derived from helping organizations initiate and manage change. But, I have what on the surface may look like a contradictory obsession with “the past.” There is many a quoted variation on the theme of not junking one’s history in favor of one’s future, but Confucius put it particularly well:
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
It’s advice I’ve tried to fully embrace over the best part of 20 years – and it has molded my philosophy both in life and in the workplace. With my background in advertising – an industry often associated with the superficial – I’ve seen the benefits of when “the past” is used to some degree of depth as a tool to map “the future.”
The desire for authenticity
In the current economic and socio-political environment, characterized by technology-led industrial disruption, globalized commoditization and market fragmentation, a relatively newfound desire for authenticity within experience is on the rise. Workforces needing to buy into an employer’s philosophy and values before providing their labor; prospective consumers insisting on knowing the origin of goods and services before they buy; and “activist” shareholders demanding more transparency from their investments’ portfolios.
Basically, we want to be told stories by the brands, organizations and people we engage with. Stories with relevance to our own lives; stories that are true and honest; stories that reflect our own values back at us from within those brands. This relatively new demand for authenticity requires an entirely different approach by organizations. It means companies have to stop looking exclusively at their external environment for answers. In their search for authenticity, they need to look back within – at their own core values and why they went into business in the first place.
This notion, combined with inspiration from the work and ideas of Jan Ardui (an internationally recognized NLP trainer, systemic thinker and business coach), led to developing a model to help companies find and reconnect with those core values and the excellence embedded in those values. The Archestasis Model is a diagnostic methodology designed to help organizations explore their deeper strengths, tap the source of their excellence and leverage this excellence in a coherent, holistic way into the future.
At the heart of the Archestasis methodology is the idea of embracing paradox. Paradox can take many forms: discipline versus freedom, performance versus alignment, risk taking versus efficiency and so forth. By identifying these opposing forces within an organization, and harnessing the constant tension between them, there is a genuine opportunity to unlock the key for a system to continuously improve, and enable excellence to emerge.
Somewhere within the paradox and contradictions is where you’ll find the essence of your organization – your story – and the narratives relating to what you do and why you do it. A firm grasp of these will identify what makes your organization unique, and will help determine your positioning in the marketplace. This is something that ZN feels very strongly about and why they urge their clients to go back to their roots (and the heart of their communication) and find out who they are as this level of authenticity is even more important in our digital age.
In my next post I’ll go into more detail about the Archestasis Model. In the meantime, what do you think is your personal or corporate paradox?