Auld Lang Syne: The importance of organizational history and memory

Memory was a key theme appearing on this blog several times during the year. In other words, what events and persons do organizations and institutions choose to remember, and which ones do they opt to forget?

I’m a big believer in continually re-examining history for the lessons it keeps yielding. When memories are sharp and true, we all can benefit, sometimes because they allow us to celebrate and commemorate, on other occasions so we can learn from mistakes or failings.

Here are three posts from this year that examined the implications of institutional amnesia:

How lousy organizations treat institutional history — Excerpt: “How do lousy organizations treat their own institutional history? In other words, how do they treat their past, recent or otherwise? . . . Bad organizations avoid accountability by labeling any unjust, unethical, illegal, or simply inept behavior as part of the past. Those who seek discussions of, or explanations for, such actions or behaviors are criticized for dwelling upon the past . . ..”

Erase and forget: “Unpersons” and institutional memory — Excerpt: “Bad organizations choose to ‘forget’ less flattering events of their institutional history, especially those that conflict with their self-generated mythologies. Sometimes that process requires them to create new unpersons out of individuals associated with those events.”

Harass and eliminate: Anti-labor forces go after professors and art — Excerpt: “Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, recently ordered the removal of an 11-panel mural depicting various chapters in the history of the state’s workers from the offices of the Department of Labor. . . . There is an Orwellian quality to this action, a desire to create a category of unpersons . . ..”

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