Flash Cards | Continuous Systems

Repeating history is seldom an explicit possibility as organizations charge into the future, but without a firm grasp on the details of today, tomorrow might not be as bright.

Institutional History, Corporate Identity, Organizational Memory are all terms that relate to the usual failure of organizations to retain anything useful about their own adaptive story.  Forgetfulness is harmful to an organization, especially during times of change.  Just as people record the history of society, countries, governments, etc., so too do organizations and people need a proper history which can be used for reflection and reference.  You want continuity between all parties so that advancements, innovations, and detriments, failures can be remembered.  It isn’t enough to “log” things that happen in a subjective way.  There must be a plan by which periods in time can be compared.

In practice, a continuous system can be a person who has seen it all and carries the story forward.  In reality, people change, alter the record inadvertently, forget, and leave.  The best practice is to establish a technological system that can help capture the story/history/log as it happens and organize the tale into the best form for future consumption and presentation.

In reality, a technology system is a person, procedure, technique, policy, or a literal piece of electronic technology.  A historian is the custodian of organizational identity.  Today, we use marketers, salespeople, and many others to reinterpret the story of the past.  But, it helps to actually know the past.  That means faithfully recording it.  This may manifest as a laborious task--an indulgence of the highly profitable--but that doesn't need to be the case.  It is intellectual property.  If the information is as simple as sales reports and accounting data or as complex as a salesman's notes or failed R&D experiments ... they all demark attempts across moments in time.

As historical records grow, there needs to be some objective synthesis of data so that when an organization attempts to reflect upon its past before embarking on a new opportunity, its survey can be quick and accurate.  Just as keeping an accurate record is important, so is making it digestible.

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