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How organisations tell their stories

A University of Naples study explores corporate museums as a means of explaining the culture of production

Each organisation tells its own story, no one doing it in the same way. Each is an echo of the organisation’s own individual culture, a product of  its specific experiences over the years. Moreover,  the methods these organisations choose to present their stories – in text and images – provide unique insights into how production is organised. This is a point to be explored if we are to fully understand the true fabric of the entrepreneurial spirit underpinning production.

One of the most popular methods businesses choose to tell their stories is the “corporate museum”.  A medley of objects, images, sounds, texts and colours, these museums throw light on who and what the organisation is.

To gain a better understanding of how effective corporate museums can be, a useful place to start is “Quando il museo comunica l’impresa: identità organizzativa e sensemaking nel museo Salvatore Ferragamo” [Museums communicating enterprise: organisational identity and sense-making in the Salvatore Ferragamo museum], written by Floriana Iannone (PhD, Economics faculty, Second University of Naples) and recently published by “Il capitale culturale” [The cultural capital].

Floriana Iannone bases her thesis on this premise: corporate museums are a kind of organisational memory which can and must be used responsibly in building and communicating corporate identity and image.

In developing her argument, the author starts by exploring the theory underlying sensemaking, namely the process by which organisations give meaning to their business then convey it through museums.  This is followed, later in the book, by a specific study of the Ferragamo museum encompassing interviews with museum employees, company managers and a large sample of the public.

The picture that emerges confirms the potential of corporate museums, when well-organised and managed – to convey corporate identity, in some cases, going as far as to establish a sort of dialogue within the company and with the outside world, helping to strengthen and transmit the values underpinning the organisation and driving its growth.

One of the employees made this pertinent comment: “We would like to see emotional bonds forged with the brand although our main objective is to help boost culture in our field.”

The language may not always be the easiest, but the article detailing Floriana Iannaone’s research is an excellent example of how to explore “applied” business culture.

 

Quando il museo comunica l’impresa: identità organizzativa e sensemaking nel museo Salvatore Ferragamo  [Museums communicating enterprise: organisational identity and sense-making in the Salvatore Ferragamo museum]

Floriana Iannone

“Il capitale culturale” [The cultural capital], XIII (2016), pages 525-553