The Value of Corporate History
Everything has a history, simply because everything exists in time (except of course Monty Python which is timeless).
Starting with nations, which are the best-known kind of histories, we drill down to regions, states, cites and towns. Then further down on the family tree of history we find family histories, and then of course personal histories in the form of biography or memoir.
But let’s not leave out the history of corporations, as well as companies generally, no matter what their legal structure may be. And while we are at it, we should not forget NGOs, charities and organizations of all kinds.
Some people, after all, consider corporations people. Now this idea might well have solicited chuckles when Mitt Romney famously launched it, but if you parse that a little you quickly arrive at a less ridiculous formulation — that corporations are entities. They may not have consciousness or a will, but they certainly do possess a beginning, a middle and an end, or an origin, a present, and hopefully a future.
Thus positioned in time, a corporation (or company) must have a History.
I’ve argued elsewhere that History serves different purposes, so the question what is history for? has different answers. But one answer to this question applies across the board — for nations, for towns, for companies and individuals: Histories serve the commissioning entity.
In the case of a company, history serves to represent, to preserve, to describe and to further interests, largely by articulating the mission, character and raison d’etre.
Corporate history serves the entity by allowing employees, directors, stake-holders and customers to fully understand and appreciate the role and unique identity thereof. For those in the corporate wheel house, to embark on a nautical metaphor, History provides a back bearing. This is a point of reference in the past that allows one to plot a course forward, providing continuity, which not only promotes customer confidence, but anchors senior leaders to the core and founding principles.
Now corporations, like other entities, do not always experience linear progression. There are revolutions. There is management turnover, there are stumbling blocks, takeovers and bankruptcies. Given these, the rough…