Anyone who has been on one of the many committees or Boards I’ve served on or worked with me at any of the companies or organizations where I’ve been employed, probably knows how much I revere the history of institutions. I have researched and put together histories of events and groups as I worked to make changes. Yes. You can love and respect the history and still want to make changes.

Here are some reasons it’s important to know the history.

  1. You sound a whole lot smarter if you know what has happened in the past to get your group to where it is today.
  2. The changes you want to make today may have been tried before and failed. It’s not that you can’t try again, but it’s important to know why it happened and why it failed – or succeeded. You don’t want to be in a meeting and propose something only to have someone say “we’ve already tried that.” Yes, you may have tried it before, but here is why it failed before and here is why it may work this time. Changes happen and you have a better change of making it work this time if you can understand the past.
  3. You can use the history in so many ways to promote your group. Celebrate anniversaries, acknowledge former leaders, have fun with it.

I’ve watched a lot of new leaders take over companies or organizations in my 77 years. Many come in with great new ideas, sweeping all of the people who have been there for a while out the door so they can remake everything as they think it should be. To me, this shows a weakness in leadership. Why would you not acknowledge the people who know the past of the organization and can help you remake it? I know there are some who will shake their heads and say it’s always worked before, but there is room for both new ideas and institutional knowledge. The best leaders are those who bring the ones who know the history along with them as they guide them into the future.

These are just observations from my own experience. Watching the politicians and business leaders of today, you can see how much we need the people who know how to work together to find common solutions to problems that affect all of us. Throwing out entire departments or staffs, listening only to those who want to throw out all that has gone before seems to be the way of the world and it doesn’t seem to be working very well. I’ve always worked best with people of all ages and all experiences coming together. New ideas and old experiences are invaluable.

Politics has been described as bringing different points of view together to find common solutions. Polarization doesn’t seem to get anything accomplished. Standing your ground is just stubbornness in cases where you need to move a group forward or help the most people. There are times you need to stand up for what you believe and there are times when you need to compromise and we should acknowledge when it is important for each.

Just a lecture from the experience of years as I watch and wait for the winds of change.