December 17, 2019 • Sam Grabel
Throughout the year, we have been leaking passages from CEO and Founder Bruce Weindruch’s book, Start with the Future and Work Back: A Heritage Management Manifesto. We’ve given you the outcomes of our methodology, but now we want to explain exactly what it is. This month’s excerpt takes a closer look at Start with the Future and Work Back.™
“Start with the Future and Work Back is our guiding philosophy as well as a methodology we employ to create every single deliverable we produce, whether it’s a website, a book, a video, an exhibit or a single Tweet.
In short, it’s our DNA. Who we are and what we do.
Start with the Future and Work Back has nothing to do with predicting what might happen tomorrow. We’re not futurists. It’s simply a tool for understanding our clients’ current needs and then working backward to help meet them.
In other words, it’s our way of exploring the question, ‘What are you doing today to try to get to tomorrow?’
We start by asking our clients the right questions up front: What are you doing today that makes you so competitive? Who are you trying to reach with your products and services? What are your goals, and what do you want to achieve? How do you want to be viewed by your clients and the world around you?
Once we get the answers to those questions, we conduct highly targeted historical research with those answers in mind—focusing with laser-like precision on creating compelling programs and deliverables that support the strategic objectives our clients just outlined.
History is an interpretive process. It isn’t carved in stone. The facts and names and dates stay the same, but the stories themselves should be continually reinterpreted and told in ways that keep them relevant.
Think about Shakespeare’s play Henry V. Its text has not changed significantly since it was written more than 400 years ago. Same characters. Same plot. Same dialogue. But each generation has chosen to interpret that text in its own way, whether it was Laurence Olivier’s defense of Britain in 1944 or Kenneth Branagh’s more modern adaptation in 1989, which tried to portray King Henry as an everyday Brit thrust into the spotlight.
The history of the Battle of Agincourt or the Hundred Years’ War hasn’t changed either, but how we interpret them has changed dramatically.
Organizations have every right to curate their own history—to start with their vision for the future and work back—in the same way.
Academic historians do it all the time. They can’t document everything about the Hundred Years’ War, so they delve into the research with an eye toward specific facets of that story that are both interesting and relevant to contemporary readers.
In a practical sense, I think businesspeople tend to intuitively connect with Start with the Future and Work Back because it gives them an excuse not to look backward. They continue looking forward. And History Factory takes care of the rest.
It’s an extraordinarily flexible methodology, which helps us meet every client’s needs in a targeted way.
Let’s say, for instance, a client tells us that it’s worried about the specter of increased government regulation. Fine. No problem.
We go back into their history and start pulling things forward.
We look for things our client did in the past that eased the minds of regulators, government officials and the public at large. We might focus on pulling forward stories that capture its record of community service. Or highlight its progressive hiring practices or the quality of its employee benefits. We still tell our client’s whole story, but we make sure to prioritize certain aspects over others.
Or say, for instance, a client is experiencing a great deal of consolidation in its industry. Fine. Now we go in and start pulling forward stories about our client that show it was an exemplary corporate parent or a considerate merger partner. We talk about the strong relationships it has forged with clients and its legacy of innovation. We focus on stories illustrating how it has welcomed new acquisitions and how it has been a great company to work with—and for—over the years.
Thank you for following along with us throughout the year as we have explored the last 40 years of our history and how we’ve revolutionized how corporate history is viewed and used. We’re excited for another 40 years of continuing to innovate, excite and shatter expectations. For more information on how History Factory can help your organization, contact us.