Great societies understand the importance of symbols all too well. Symbols help us make tangible that which is intangible. And the only reason symbols have meaning is because we infuse them with meaning. The flag for example is nothing more than a symbol of our nation’s values and beliefs.
Our flag is infused with so much meaning that some have tried to pass laws banning its desecration. It’s not the material out of which the flag is sewn that these Patriots aim to protect. Their goal is to protect the meaning this symbol represents: THE WHY.
Most companies have logos, but few have been able to convert those logos into meaningful symbols. Because most companies are bad at communicating what they believe. So it follows that the logos are devoid of any meaning. At best they serve as icons to identify a company and its products. A symbol cannot have any deep meaning until we know why it exists in terms bigger than simply to identify the company. Without clarity of WHY, a logo is just a logo.
For companies to be perceived as great leaders and not dictators, all their symbols including their logos need to stand for something in which we can all believe. Something we can all support. That takes clarity, discipline, and consistency.
It is not a company or an organization that decides what its symbols mean. it is the group outside, in the chaotic marketplace who decide.
What a company says and does are also means by which a company communicates its beliefs and convictions. Too many companies put a disproportionate amount of weight on their products simply because those are the things that bring in the money. But there are more things at the base of the megaphone that open an equal role in speaking to the outside world. Though products drive sales, they alone cannot create loyalty. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
The idea that copying WHAT or HOW things are done at high-performing organizations will inherently work for you is just not true. What is good for one company is not necessarily food for another. Put simply, best practices are not always best.
With a WHY clearly stated in an organization, anyone within the organization can make a decision as clearly and as accurately as the founder. A WHY provides a clear filter for decision-making. Any decisions-hiring, partnerships, strategies, and tactics should all be based on the WHY.
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