The Chrysler Toolbox

A model of Walter P. Chrysler alongside his box of custom tools.

Moon rocks.

A moon rock isn’t all that different from anything you might kick around on a playground, but when it is associated with the “giant leap,” it becomes significant. It becomes a proof of the greatest feat in all of human history.

Like a rock, a toolbox is something common and uninteresting. In fact, one is probably located somewhere in your home right now. Possibly small and yellow with a flat head screwdriver and a tack hammer. But what happens when there is a name on that box? A name like Chrysler, a family synonymous with the automotive industry. What was once a simple box becomes a symbol of ingenuity. And that is something useful.

But even a toolbox with the name of an industry pioneer can become a dusty old relic if you don’t link it to your corporate history. Used properly, the right artifact gives you an authentic tie to your company and tells a broader story. Recently, when Chrysler executives put Walter P. Chrysler’s toolbox on display in their newly built headquarters north of Detroit, they created a tangible link between the company’s founder and thousands of employees.

Employees walking through the lobby recognized their founder’s custom-made tools as the predecessors of their innovative work. They could sit at their computers, using their 21st century “toolboxes” knowing that the work they were doing was just as important to the company’s future as Chrysler’s tools had been in the beginning.

From a heritage management perspective, what can be gained from the story of Walter P. Chrysler’s toolbox?

Authentic artifacts like Chrysler’s toolbox are a physical reminder that great companies aren’t started by computers or defined by logos. They are started by people. Unique genius that isn’t quickly summarized by chrome apples or golden arches.

There is an unequivocal authenticity that comes from an artifact like Chrysler’s toolbox. We have an opportunity to take the idea—that artifacts represent powerful character traits and habits—and use it as a focal point to leverage a company’s heritage.

Somewhere in your company’s vault is your own toolbox, an artifact from your own history that ties your past to your present and future. It’s not always the biggest and flashiest item that makes the greatest impact. Don’t overlook the benefits that small, seemingly mundane pieces of your heritage, properly positioned, can provide.

Find your own moon rock.