Mastering Authenticity in Business

Mastering Authenticity in Business


Truth and honesty

Authenticity is a popular theme in business at the moment. We build new houses that look old. We eat organic and free range food because they are “real”. Companies that are authentic are growing, companies such as Honest Burgers and Whole Foods Market. They promise that they are the genuine and truthful article in whatever they serve, and we appreciate that.

Truth and honesty communicates authenticity

Understandably, we get upset when we don’t get what we expect or what was promised, such as when the toy in the cereal box is missing. Or you might get angry when you have patiently queued and waited at a bar for someone else to arrive and get served before you.

Companies that are not authentic are also getting more and more negative press. Remember Starbucks and their tax bill or Amazon and their staff wages. This has in some cases caused boycotting of some companies and their services by customers. People have expectations on not just the products or services they are buying into, but also the companies providing them. We expect companies to be truthful in what they do and in who they are.

But….

What does authenticity actually mean when truth means truth and honesty means honesty. Isn’t authenticity its own word?

The Latin word that authentic is derived from says that it means to “comes from the Author”

And Authors create. To be authentic you need to create. I’ll be be extreme enough to say that all you need to do is create. The aspect of truth in authenticity comes from this, where the creation comes from represents truth.

In other words, it has been truthfully created.

Purpose and promise

But in any creation you need to have a purpose. There is a promise that is made to the person taking what you have made. They take that promise and invest it into their world.

Example: I buy the promise of a fast sports car, but what we all understand to be fast and sporty is different. My mum for example rarely drives outside of the city and will at most drive at 40 mph whereas Lewis Hamilton can drive his F1 car at speeds in excess of 200 mph during a race. What they would each consider as fast sport car would be different due to their world view.

Just to help frame this – the purpose of something is your reason for creating, the promise of something is the customer/users understanding of what it will do for them.

If I were to author/create a glass for drinking, it’s purpose is to hold a drinkable liquid and act as a container. The person then creates a promise about what your glass will do for them “this glass will hold my drink until I am ready to drink it”.

Now I create a glass with holes at the side – it is still authentic as is was created with a purpose although now it is different. It is now a candle holder. This time the promise has changed. “This glass is a candle holder and the holes are to encourage air flow to make sure the candle can burn”.

The problem arises when the customer places the first promise with the second glass. They say to themselves “this is supposed to work in this way and it doesn’t”. They shout “Why would you create a drinking glass with holes”. In these instances we lose authenticity because as far as that person is concerned you haven’t met your end of the bargain. They shout and tell their friends that you haven’t kept your promise.

Here is the thing. My glass still has an authentic purpose – it is just that the promise is misaligned. Given that the person understands this different purpose they will create a different promise around what the glass will do for them and you will remain authentic.

An important thing to understand is that the promise of what your product will do for that customer is made by the customer and not you, it’s your job to influence it but they create it.
You can try as hard as you like to promise them something but at the end of the day what they believe is up to them.

Made and Broken

The key here lies not in truth and honesty, but in promises made and promises broken. To be authentic all you need to do is create. To remain authentic you need to influence your customer so that they make the right promise to themselves and that you keep it. The funny thing is that you will have to keep promises that you sometimes didn’t make, and I will cover this aspect in another post.

To some this up.

Creation is authenticity. Remaining authentic is meeting your customers promise not yours.

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