The Faceless Collective

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There are some companies that effortlessly symbolise the definition of true success. Their business names are iconic and are immediately recognisable by the young, the old, and those selectively aged in between.

There are no descriptive emotional tag-lines, no longwinded corporately clever arrangement of words, they are just “are”, and don’t need “to be”.

And here I was, sitting in the Board Room of one of these globally clever giants of industry, all by myself! It was an eerie and exciting feeling as I sucked in the room’s impressive atmosphere. I carefully crossed my legs under the highly polished large wooden boardroom table and cautiously, and gingerly, leaned back and pressed my back into the well-worn brown leather club chair.

The north side of the room had large floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlooked the Yarra River from high up on the 39th floor. This view was balanced by an array of large and formidable oil painting portraits of their esteemed leaders that had steered the company successfully over the past 83 years.

As I slowly studied the names under each painting, my eyes suddenly stopped when I read the polished brass name-tag of what appeared to be a most unusual portrait that was strategically, and I assumed deliberately, centred right in the middle of all the other framed canvasses. This painting was definitely larger in size, more brightly illuminated, and presumably highly prized, and worthy of more significant corporate value. The inscription in large black font read “Our Perpetual Innovator”. But the most striking aspect of this painting was the face, or should I say, its absence! Yes, this painting was of a “faceless”, yet distinguished individual. I was intrigued and decided to leave my comfortable leather chair and have a closer inspection. As I got closer, I noticed some additional words at the bottom; “Innovation is not derived from any individual, but from the collective”. I pondered these words and slowly understood their symbolic meaning, as this I suspected was the key fundamental aspect as to why this business was so successful.

This business recognised that many ideas, derived, and continually shared between the employees of this organisation, were the driving force behind their creativity. They had seen that this vast, and rich, source of innovation was not reliant upon a single individual, but the combined force of the collective.

Wow, if only all companies could recognise this fact!

So next time you are sitting in the Board Room of your company and happen to view the historical images of your past illustrious leaders, may I suggest you consider the power of the “Faceless Collective” and not just focus on any one individual?

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