To conceive of their businesses as fictional entities is a difficult task for several business leaders to engage in, and for a very good reason. After all, the buildings, desks, chairs, computers, logos and employees are certainly very real, and far from fictional. So, in what way are we suggesting that all organizations are fictional?
The fictional element of the organization is the adhesive that binds together all of the organization’s physical properties. This is because the concept of an organization, at a high level, is dependent upon a belief shared by everyone that belongs to it. That shared belief is what provides the organization with meaning and grants it power.
In practice, efficient businesses function in much the same fashion as religious organizations and other societies that profess and promote belief systems, and then assemble members that identify with and organize themselves around those belief systems. Moreover, these organizations usually establish a reason for their existence centered on the fulfillment of a mission. In other words, accomplishing the mission justifies the existence of the organization.
Organizations with clear missions and identifiable beliefs are powerful, and true adherents to those beliefs are easily distinguished by clear devotion to the organization and its mission. Business organizations operate in much the same fashion, to the degree that the most productive employees are routinely those with the loftiest sense of purpose derived from a belief in the mission of the business.
In light of this, it should be crystal clear what issues may emerge when people who are not strict devotees to the mission of a business organization are allowed to proliferate. To be clear, an organization that fails to convey a clear purpose or core values, or harbors people who don’t believe in those core values, will assuredly be marked by dysfunction.
You possess the power within you to weaponize the fictional aspects of your business to shape the culture within it. Once you identify a mission for your organization, you can build a team around you, rooted in a belief in your organization and its mission. From there, those team members can establish the sense that they belong within your company.
Employees that can recognize that they believe in the core values of your organization and belong within it are pledging their allegiance to the fiction that you have crafted. From here, the real work starts of making sure those employees acknowledge and embrace the ways in which they are accountable, measured, heard, developed, and have balance. However, it is imperative to remember the foundation upon which your organization is constructed is based on a fiction that is capable of morphing into something your employees will no longer believe in if you fail to live up to the core values you’ve established.
In the end, the fictional narrative that gives life to your company is only as believable as your visible adherence to it. Your employees are looking for leadership they can respect, and core values they can trust, and your response to your own fiction will determine whether or not they trust you and respect your leadership.