A two-foot long grizzly bear’s paw, a red flannel and an old twist of tobacco. These are a few of the items kept at the American Museum of Natural History in a sacred bundle that belonged to a Native American tribe.
Sacred bundles were guarded as precious items and used in ceremonies. As the tribal leader lifted each object out of the bundle, he related the story associated with that object. They were stories that were important to the tribe, that needed to be remembered and passed on through the generations. These stories related the tribe’s values and beliefs, reinforcing their culture and their identity.
I got to thinking of how we can apply this idea of a sacred bundle to business, in the form of stories that relate our core values and serve to reinforce our organisation’s culture. The stories that represent the heart and soul of our organisation, tell our history and lay the foundation of our core identity. They keep us on track and provide a sense of continuity no matter what changes may be occurring.
Now I’m not saying you have to have a physical bundle of objects, although it’s certainly possible. Perhaps you have letters or pictures that can be framed that represent specific moments in the life of the business. Some companies keep the first dollar they made. Sports teams retire jerseys of memorable players and hang them up in arenas to honour their contributions to sport, reminding the team of their history and inspiring them to strive to emulate the players who came before them. Whether or not you use objects, the important thing is that you identify your sacred bundle of stories.
How can you find your organisation’s sacred stories? Look for 5-10 stories that relate significant events that impacted the business, such as the founding moments, changes in direction, and people who made an impact along the way. Include personal stories – a leader’s values and priorities can be embodied in their personal story while making a powerful connection with the audience.
Just like the tribes of ancient times, the stories in your business are a reminder of where you’ve come from and where you’re going. They solidify your culture and strengthen the group’s focus.
If you’re labouring to identify the stories at the heart of your company’s culture, give me a call. I’m always keen to listen.