By David M. Boje, Jan 22, 2007
Founding story is not ever a static expression like some image duplicated on a copier machine. Rather, founding storiy is highly mobile, dynamically recomposing, morphing context and contextual meaing, expanding and contracting in elucidation, until the versions are quite variant. So it would also not be correct to assume they are, as in a copying, a faded copy of the original that was somehow misplaced.
As antenarrative (prestory & bet) it is hardly accurate to call founding story teh same story at all as it traverses, is so radically altered by participants to be a different story altogether. That means a founding story of a hundred year old company is not the same story decade after decade. Shades of meaning are shaved away or added, its very composition is stylized, it morphs. There would be periods of relative stability, punctuate by periods of revisionism, ans the founding story is haped and reshaped to put context in different lisht, change the moral horizon, or restory identity of the corporation in new markets.
Each succesion of leaders adapts sense to founding stories. Values beyond comprehension are involved in the morphing, and each new leader imposes sense on founding story until it never was as it is being portrayed to have been.
EXACTITUDE AND FOUNDING STORY
It is also possible founding story gets so (re) stylized that it loses any semblance of relationship to its experiential exactitude. Founders would not recohnize the abomination, declare it exaggeratin, or outright distortion! Some story consultant may bastardize founding story, stylizing it to address pertinent interests of the newest dominant coalition, to take advantage of the sentiments of new wave of consumers or employees. Or a story consultant may forge fragments of different version of founding stories, abstracted from different historical periods, and weld them into a petrified BME linear narrative with more fixity and coherence that affixes behginning that never was expereinced by the dead founders, or projects ending that never were conceived by those present during their founding.
Instead of petrified, which can happen, seeral founding stories can be static for a while, transform at different rates, but never finalize, keep rearranging content, scope, and context. Making a founding story more coherent than it ever was produces narrative fallacy that insults critical judgment of those appliying the concoction to every new situation.
The founding story as an antenarrative sheds and picks up context, shifts meaning at each new editing session. Positive thinking leaders (& egoistic ones) and their scribe-subordinates, are prone to background the nasty bits of exploitation, and tell a more heroic version, one more easily appreciated by stakeholders. In this example, the stakeholders who were not Native Americans, want excuses for killing them off.
For several reasons I have a good deal of skepticism about Founding Stories.
You can see this in the chapter on Strategy Story consulting, in which Ray Kroc and his scribes revise the history of the McDonald brothers, ascribing productive inventions of the brothers to Kroc, downplaying the franchise start ups by the brothers, discounting the first clown Speedy, in favor of Kroc's clown, Ronald.
Web Sites Cited
Jackie Krentzman, Stanford Magazine, ‘the Force Behind the Smile.’ 1997 on line http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/1997/janfeb/articles/knight.html
The official story of McDonald’s founding from the McDonalds.com web site: In 1954 “Ray Kroc had never seen so many people served so quickly when he pulled up to take a look. Seizing the day, he pitched the idea of opening up several restaurants to the brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, convinced that he could sell eight of his Multimixers to each and every one. ‘Who could we get to open them for us?’ Dick McDonald said. ‘Well,’ Kroc answered, ‘what about me?’…”
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