Recently I’ve been working with the implications of corporate brand identity gaps; for instance the differences between the vision of management and how tasks are worked out in a bussy everyday life among colleagues in the organization. As you may have experienced yourself, most companies experience that sort of difference. And until recently I’ve mostly been concerned with diminishing those differences as most of my clients experience either “they don’t understand the vision” or “my boss has no idea what’s going on”. Being two ends of the same tie the gap seems to be there. And most times it is clear for any customer that somethings the matter; gaps of understanding between different departments or parts of a business is not only difficult for anyone trying to get the job done. Most times it’s also reflected in the customer experience being differences in expectations and received value.
But the other day I was reminded how gaps can be useful and should in some cases be kept – maybe even nurtured. The tension of gaps between the everyday as you know it and the audacious goal in a new vision or the gap between the view of customers complaining and the staff on the receiving end has great potential for movement and growth.
In Majken Schultz’ comment there are certainly a number of questions to be answered (note by the way the layer of meta-reflection: We are discussing how we can find value in listening and co-creating by doing just those things through the weblog) when it comes to the understanding of authenticity and the identity of organizations.
So far I’ve become aware of a number of perspectives or beliefs on authenticity in the context of organizational and communicative work:
– The correlation of thought and action (or what you say and what you do, also popularly referred to as “walk the talk”)
– The connection to heritage (we used to be a design-company, hence it is authentic to discuss organizational identity in a design-perspective)
– Being consistent without regard to context (this seems to be a bit too rigid; a more post-modern understanding would be that you can be very different at your grandmothers dinner and at a late night party with your friends but still be authentic in both cases)
– Authentic means doing something good (there is a moral or ethical undertone to authenticity)
I disagree with the last view. I could be a greedy fraudster and be authentic (and at carefully chosen moments even truthful) about it. In most societies it would not be ethically acceptable but I would still be authentic. For me it is first of all the correlation of thought and action. Or in corporate lingo: Vision and Culture. Or Identity and Image. The funny thing about this term is that most people will agree on what’s authentic and what’s not. But for most of us it’s a non-conscious (I choose not to say unconscious because of the psychotherapeutic undertones) proces which is why the experience of authenticity is so interesting: it’s happening all the time and everyone is judging your company on-the-fly.
When I connect authenticity and the ability to be authentic with customer-involvement it’s because I’m trying to find effective ways for companies to understand their outside world and use it to get an understanding of the differences between what an organization believes it is and how it is perceived by it’s customers or users. And in a fast-paced, competitive world these processes has to build understanding fast, effectively and on an ongoing basis.