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Respect for historic context

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is interviewing for a job. The recruiter sent a job description in advance of the interview. It included the requirement that the employee be “respectful of the historical context” of the business.

This requirement certainly falls outside of standard job descriptions or traditional work task analyses. As we pondered the requirement, we decided that the ability to understand the historic context and the core values of an organization belongs in every job description. As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, “Preserve the core and stimulate progress.”

“Stimulating progress” and innovation are the business imperatives of the moment. So, what does it mean to “preserve the core”, to respect historic context? How do we honor the best of what presently is? Do our organizations tell the stories of the company founders, stories that demonstrate their values, hopes, and dreams? Do we tell our own stories of why we came to work where we do and what matters most to us about the people and customers we work with? Do we see pictures, awards, certificates, or other memorabilia that make visible past organization experiences and successes?

How do we connect the past to the future? What practical methods have you used or encountered to demonstrate honor and respect for the historic context?

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