By John Worne 

History isn’t always a reliable guide to the future; plenty of great organisations have wrongly believed their history makes them ‘too big to fall’. 

Still, connecting with the origins: the founding myths and great moments of an organisation, is the surest way to capture the ‘hearts and minds’ on any forward strategy or plan. 

Learning the history helps a Specialist-Generalist authentically speak to the ‘purpose’; even when a ‘newbie’ or not seen as an ‘expert practitioner’ in what the organisation does.

HBR Tip of the Day April 05, 2017

To Guide Your Company’s Future, Look to Its Past

Some strategy experts believe that each company has its own DNA: a unique strategy and culture that sets it apart from competitors. To guide an organization’s growth, you need to understand its nature. Start by looking at its past. 

Dig around in the company archives. Talk to early employees to find out what the organization used to be like and what shaped its beginning. Read the corporate history, if you’ve got one. 

Look at the original vision and values of the founders. How did they see the world? What problem were they out to solve? How did they believe the business was creating value? 

Map what you learn to the company’s current business. Where is there alignment? Where isn’t there? The goal of this exercise isn’t just to increase your understanding of the company; it’s to think about how the company can create value in new ways while staying true to its origins.

Adapted from “How to Discover Your Company’s DNA,” by Mark Bonchek

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