Interesting from two perspectives: external facing situations as described in the article below, but also how the backstory influences employees internally - workers like to be associated with ethical and responsible organizations as well. If the organization fails to establish a sense of community internally, then whatever it does externally is built on a brittle foundation. Management needs to focus on the backstory as it aligns with social corporate responsibility but also in how it affects internal human resources and the level of employee engagement and the solidarity of its workforce. The ability of an organization to be resilient is becoming more important, especially if you are looking at challenges and risks associated with shifting employee demographics (such as aging workforce and acquiring/retaining talent), globalization and so on.
It's difficult to imagine how an enterprise can expect people to go beyond what their job demands in terms of information sharing, collaboration, community-building and networking - if the environment is unstable, unhealthy or perhaps even hostile. I don't mean this as a return to the "job for life" world - one statistic I read was that the average worker will now have something like 10-12 jobs over their career lifecycle. So during a worker's tenure with a particular company - what programs, methods and practices need to be put in place? In the past we called this knowledge management. Sometimes KM programs were coupled with human capital management strategies as well. Now we seem to be telling "old stories in new ways" by labeling such endeavors as Enterprise 2.0 or social media (and other derivatives like social computing).
In any case, an interesting read - but keep in mind the notion that a backstory is important period - and that employees are often the authors, editors, actors and audience of that story. To get the external story right - you need to start with the participants themselves...
As the consulting outfit SustainAbility puts it in their report The Changing Landscape of Liability, "boundaries of accountability will progressively expand through the value chain and through the whole life-cycle of a product's development, production, use and disposal."
But in this new phase, it is not enough simply to stop being evil. As Marks & Spencer executive Ed Williams said, "consumers increasingly want to be sure that the companies they deal with reflect their values, can be trusted to behave responsibly, are who they say they are and are the kind of organization they like to be associated with." In simpler terms, companies are finding themselves held responsible for the whole backstory of their products.
A product's backstory, you'll remember, is everything that happened to get the object or service to us, everything that will happen behind the scenes while we use it, and everything that will happen after it leaves our lives. The backstory tells us who we’re being when we make a choice.
Good companies are getting better at telling the backstories of the things they make. Other companies -- the ones who can’t figure out how to tell their backstories, or whose backstories are shameful -- are sailing into the storm. Indeed, how companies tell their backstories is the critical business communication challenge of the next decade. We're entering an era of holistic accountability and backstory management.