I recently came across someone who used the phrase ‘organisational digital memory’ and it got me thinking…what do we actually mean by this?
Do organisations make the most of their memories?
Can an organisation’s memory be used as a point of differentiation against the competition?
Defining organisational memory
If we are to explore how these memories can be leveraged, first we must look at what they are…and for now, I’m going to remove the ‘digital’ from the discussion.
On a first pass, I might define the organisation’s memory as the collective working experiences of all the current employees.
Staff in every organisation are making decisions every day based on the experiences (or memories) that have gone before. This could include lessons learnt from failed projects, replicating wins or the continuous improvement of operational processes. But to me, this feels a little too limited as a definition as staff will ultimately move on.
We must also consider employee experiences prior to them even joining their current organisation, which is of course such an important part of the hiring process. In these cases, do we need to expand the definition of one organisation’s memory to also include the experience of others?
Perhaps the definition could be expanded to standard documented practices embedded within the organisation. These are typically built upon the various experiences of many individuals over many years. It solves the issues mentioned above regarding employee churn, yet this definition (even when added to the above) feels too mechanical for me.
Is organisational memory simply the lean efficiency of a well-oiled process? Or, is it the culmination of every decision, every action and every experience that has made the organisation what it is today?
On a personal level, I believe that I am who I am today because of the experiences I’ve had throughout my life. So why would an organisation be any different?
Preserving digital memories
If we take the final definition above, then it is arguably extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have captured all of those memories. If I use myself as an example again, there are of course memories I have of my life which have shaped me, just as much as there will be things that I forgotten which have also had an impact.
Organisations are no different.
But while I have friends and family I have known all my life, pictures dating back to my childhood and more to help bring those memories to life, do organisations have that assistance or record? Have they got those important moments documented? How many employees remain from 5, 10 or even 20 years ago?
Now every organisation will be different, but the point that I am driving at, is how many organisations today are prioritising the capture and long-term use of those memories?
It’s also at this moment that I want to bring us back to digital memories specifically. With the technology available today, and so much information born digital within an organisation, there is a great opportunity to ensure that these are not only retained but leveraged.
Maximising organisational digital memory
It will be difficult in this one blog post to provide an exhaustive list of how organisations can begin to leverage their digital memory.
For some it will be much easier than others: as an example, at Arkivum we work with several organisations who have heritage brands and can lean on their history to drive new business today.
I’ve shared a couple of other examples below which might help to start thinking about taking advantage of your organisation’s memories:
- The use of older advertising campaigns or product packaging to demonstrate how far the products have come. Or even rekindle old brand attachments in customers.
- Creating an easy to access repository containing documented processes. These can then be easily reviewed and improved on and most importantly…not forgotten when people move on to another role.
- Capture and document internal company milestones to help demonstrate progress within a business and celebrate success.
- Or even, simply ensuring the effective use of the company CRM to capture ongoing discussions and engagement with prospects and customers. You might not have all the historic information, but there’s nothing stopping you capturing that information now.
These are just a couple of examples of how an organisation could start to leverage its collective memories to help it stand out in the market. Every organisation is where it is today because of this collective memory, and I would guess that many are missing a trick when it comes to taking advantage of this opportunity.
Organisations will continue to generate more and more data in the coming years.
I truly believe that the organisations who are able to leverage that information will see success over those who cannot.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and if you would like to read our other posts, you can find them here.
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