Revisionist History or Future: A lesson for business executives

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Revisionist History Future: Writing history before it happens

Some may read the title and question how this applies to business executives? It does. This post is not meant to be political and take sides, but to raise the awareness of a path we have embarked upon. And for many, they may not realize the short- and long-term impact of this path. Bear with me and I will explain.

There has been quite a bit written about revisionist history. As a quick primer, revisionist history is when beliefs and statements about history are changed. Often, this is done to fit a new belief, storyline, cause or perspective. In some cases, it may misrepresent the historical event or otherwise bring it into question.

Revisionist history is not new and happens after history is written. However, we have crossed a point where history is being written before it happens. I call this Revisionist Future. And no, it is not a good thing.

Over the past several years, we started to see revisionist future broadly used in US politics. Politicians questioning a process or outcome (ie: voting) before the outcome is fully understood is an example of revisionist future. They are not only attempting to predict the future, but also applying revisionist history when the (potential) outcome does not match their desired outcome.

Embracing revisionist history is one thing. Supporting revisionist future creates a culture that is both unpredictable and dangerous. It also creates divisiveness between ideologies. Unfortunately, that very divergence works against the ability to converge toward commonalities that decisions and directions are built upon.

Why is this important for CIOs and executives?

Shift gears for a minute. Companies are attempting to better understand customers, predict outcomes and make good decisions. Increasingly so, data (ie: history) is used to provide clarity and guidance.

If we apply revisionist future to that process, the culture creates a reactive environment that undermines the very stability we seek in company leadership. The danger is that revisionist future has the ability to question the very data and decisions we make as leaders and executives. Without that foundation, how do we build successful companies? 

Where do we go from here?

First, we need to acknowledge the existence of revisionist future. We need to understand how it exists and what fuels its existence. What actions do we take as individuals, leaders and businesses that contribute to this culture. In some ways, it could be overt or it may be subtle. Second, we need to find ways to guard against support for a culture that undermines the very process of providing a foundation that we build companies upon. Without stability, the traditional means in which we lead, build organizations and companies will falter.

Is this another way of presenting doom and gloom? No. At least not yet. But revisionist future does present a stark warning we must heed as leaders.

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