The Stories We Tell
A recent piece in the Atlantic by Kaitlyn Tiffany tells not one but several stories about Eastman Kodak: of the author's personal experience of Kodak; of the company's close-knit ties to its hometown of Rochester, New York; and of how the company transformed Americans' relationship with photography, which became an instrument for capturing and preserving what became known as "Kodak moments." There is also a kind of meta-story: the story of the story that Kodak told Americans about the value of nostalgia itself, which eventually lost its power as the company failed to adapt to a digital age.
Time will tell whether Kodak can ever recapture its former greatness. The company's latest turnaround strategy includes a pivot to pharmaceuticals manufacturing—a sign that Kodak has given up on its core identity in a bid to remain viable.
But if there is one lesson from Kodak, it is that there is never one story about an organization. Instead, there is a complex web of stories. There are the stories of how customers, clients, and employees experience an organization. There are those of the places, spaces, and communities it impacts. And there are the stories the organization tells, which can or must change over time.
To evolve and adapt, organizations must be aware of and understand all of these stories—and how they can help them shape their next chapters.