Yesterday evening Nikolaj Stagis appeared as a guest in the TV-programme Deadline on DR2 for a debate on authenticity. Together with lifestyle expert Christine Feldthaus and anthropologist Karen Lisa Salamon he discussed the nature of authenticity in the context of lifestyle and consumption. A relevant context indeed, however the outcome of the discussion was left in a blur as the concept of authenticity was never really discussed on an informed basis. Nikolaj tried to set the stage by defining that being authentic means finding and using your inner strengths in everything you do. Nevertheless, the definition was quickly angled in a way that explained authenticity through baking spelt bread and celebrating an old-fashioned way of life. A bit of a shame, if you ask me.
Personally, I would have preferred that the discussion had concentrated on why and how we can become authentic and the value this will lead to. A person might reach happiness, harmony, self-esteem or inner peace for instance. Things that are difficult to measure, but makes quite a difference in life.
In terms of giving the debate substance beyond spelt bread Nikolaj pointed out that authenticity is all about passion and “who you are” – not necessearily nostalgia, romance and “doing things the old-fashioned way”. There are many ways for a person to become authentic. Being an entrepreneur for instance is a way to self-realization and doing what you are passionate about.
Although the theme of the debate was focused on the individual, authenticity has the potential to make a similar difference for companies. And while the gain of an authentic lifestyle for the individual is mainly found in intangible values such as happiness and harmony, the benefits for the authentic company can be measured financially. LEGO is an outstanding example on how mobilising inner strengths can cause a radical turn-around. After years of trying to expand their product portfolio – e.g. into the textile and game industry – business was beginning to struggle from these new ventures. Only when the company went back to focus on their inner strengths – LEGO bricks – things started to improve rapidly.
That angle would have taken the debate to a whole new level. Well, in my opinion anyway. But what do you think? Is dedication to spelt bread, paleo diet and living in the countryside the same as being authentic, or does the concept entail a wider definition?