Living Companies, Stories, and Brand Value


The corporation is a good mechanism that allows a bunch of people to trade as one.

More than a leaf — a tree.

For your organization to do good trading, it needs to close the gap between the promises it makes and those it keeps.

I was rereading a Fast Company article about brands and storytelling and the specific paragraph quoting the work of Arie de Geus inspired me to think about this with you:

[… ] a longtime lead strategist for Shell, developed the concept of Living Companies.

According to him, "Of all the companies listed in the Fortune 500 in 1970, one-third of them had vanished by 1983. They'd been acquired, merged, or broken into pieces."

De Geus suggested several elements that contribute to the longevity of corporations.

One of them was the importance of a strong sense of community and identity. The question for established companies is, If their product now has to stand for something, what should it be? How can it establish a strong sense of community and identity?

How do you get a strong sense of community and identity? By not just telling stories. For stories to be real, you need to live them together. Business is not just about talking, though. It's about doing and making things.

It is the value of your promise and the wisdom of the trade that earns your place in the market. Trading as one entity. Combining assets creatively to compete effectively. Transactions are the highest form of preference.

Then yes, conversation is useful. We use conversation to negotiate meaning — as in what do we mean by value proposition, assets, markets, etc., and for feedback.

Brand is an asset you can trade in flows. Brands are not the source code. The source code is protected from access and you cannot write on it.

Corporations now have the power to use digital media and social technologies to connect the pieces in the ways that create the most value, and to map the brand delta. Are you keeping your promises so you can make better ones, and how do you time the future (do what, when)?

While relationships take time to set, listening and negotiating get you closer to the money. Thrive, not just survive.


PS: Conversation is not commenting, and deliberately breaking a promise increases risk for the next promisor.

[image courtesy of Eirik Solheim]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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