In the wide world of corporate art, we see a few staples time and again. Thought-provoking abstract art, inspirational posters, sculptures, ‘wow’ pieces, murals, and of course, contemporary art.
Yet among the pantheon of corporate art mainstays, one unsung hero doesn’t get nearly enough attention: History walls.
What is a History Wall?
Plainly stated, a history wall is a space reserved for telling a corporation or organization’s history. Sometimes containing photographs, charts and graphs or mixed media elements for interactivity, history walls have the power to tell your corporate story to employees and visitors in a visually stimulating and engaging manner.
Building Your Other Family Tree
A lot of people will snicker when asked to think of their corporate family as their “other” family tree. Especially considering a 2014 Gallup poll, which revealed a troubling 51 percent of people are not engaged with work and another 17.5 percent are actively disengaged from work.
Here we can assume if nothing else that most people will require some form of “second-family counseling” to swallow this jagged pill.
But when you really stop to consider that 260 of 365 days for an average 9 to 5er are spent at work each year, over 70% of your time is occupied by coworkers (not counting nights). From this view, the idea of your coworkers being a second family is something people should statistically embrace.
At the very least, if people wish to be truly happy in the workplace and life at large, creating a true sense of community and belonging is just part of the larger puzzle for creating a happier work-life balance.
History Walls & Legacy
One major plus to history walls are their power to build legacy. Legacy means different things to different people. Some put it at the end of a career, while others – and those with a growth mindset – tend to treat legacy as an ongoing narrative.
History walls help you create that narrative by fusing lasting bonds with the past and the future; the same as a tree’s roots and its leaves perform key functions from opposite ends of the organism.
In Forbes, Glenn Llopis touched on the importance of cultivating a legacy through leadership in “5 Ways A Legacy-Driven Mindset Will Define Your Leadership.”
“The best leadership legacies are a consequence of success coming to those who are surrounded by people that want their success to continue.” Llopis writes. “When you can inspire those around you to take a leap of faith with you, you are creating a legacy defining moment in your leadership career.”
That is good advice for any leader seeking legacy. History walls not only demonstrate your corporate interest in preserving the past, but also in your commitment to carrying on the success of your predecessors far into the future. It substantiates your claim to leadership by showing your support for the people who got you there.
The average person collecting a paycheck will have a hard time understanding their connection to the past if they never touch it or experience it. History walls give you a useful tool for creating learning opportunities and creating relationships across space and time. This way, legacy becomes a larger continuum shared across the entire corporate structure and history.
History Walls: Bonding and Bridging
While just another smart décor choice at first glance, history walls actually represent an opportunity for nourishing your second family tree from the roots up. Why? Creating a narrative through history bonds people in ways other art cannot. It creates ever powerful social capital, a force that should not be undermined in the 21st century job market.
Within this world of social capital, Sabina Panth from the World Bank blog writes about bonding and bridging as two keys for building social capital. “Bonding in social capital,” she writes, “is referred to as social networks between homogenous groups… Bridging in social capital is referred to as social networks between socially heterogeneous groups. Bridging allows different groups to share and exchange information, ideas and innovation and builds consensus among the groups representing diverse interests.”
History walls have the power to both bond and bridge. The bonding happens within your “second family” while the bridging happens with your clients and customers to build lasting social capital.
Preservation or Interaction?
When looking at our history – and here we’re talking about our broader history – a question consistently arises. Should we seek to preserve or interact with our past?
Consider the Mayan temples, for instance. Part of experiencing history was once interacting with it. Walking on the temples, exploring the cenotes, and putting yourself directly in the shoes of a civilization from long ago. Yet with time, the more shoes that cross the sacred thresholds, the more wear and tear persists and the very history we wish to celebrate and embrace is slowly eroded away. Quite literally!
While this is admittedly a bit of a digression, it serves a purpose. History walls provide a risk free opportunity to both preserve and interact with your company history. By incorporating mixed media, timelines, tidbits, paragraphs, objects and of course, pictures from the past, you can create an interactive narrative journey that thrives in both environments of interaction and preservation.
Sharing is Caring
If you don’t bother to preserve your corporate heritage, who will? Sharing is gratitude. Gratitude is thanks. And thanks is something that most people will never think within a workplace where 50 percent disengagement prevails. It’s the job of leaders to facilitate a community of thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow.
History walls will help leaders lead by example. By expressing your thanks in permanence and prominence, the providence of success is set. For more information on our history wall installations, please contact Art Force today.