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Can Business Really Appropriate ‘Authenticity’?

Authenticity is a concept not easily engaged with and, consequently, a concept that many businesses may reluctantly take on. Can authenticity be measured? If authenticity, as it is commonly understood, is about the individual, can a business successfully and ‘authentically’ establish links to authenticity?

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    Mar 3 2013: Interesting, the first TED talk I watched back in 2004 was about authenticity.
    Still highly recommended:
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    Mar 3 2013: I'd like to hear more of your thoughts about this. My first reaction is that any organization can foster a culture of authenticity within the organization and as an ensemble make decisions and take actions authentic to the organization's mission.
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      Mar 4 2013: true, that's pretty much what authenticity means in theory. i think that putting this into practice is more complicated.

      let's take transparency, for instance. many business experts consider it a must for authenticity. but can you really share everything and be completely transparent? and how do you make your employees understand what to share and what not? if you just tell people "be transparent", everyone will interpret it in his/her own way. if you tell them "only be transparent in these conditions: A, B and C", then you're not really transparent

      ideally, a company needs intelligent and motivated people who will understand its mission and are capable of taking actions to support it and be authentic at the same time.

      we wrote a more detailed post on our blog about this ( and i think this quote best describes the idea of authenticity in business:

      "Authenticity will be the buzzword of the twenty-first century. And what is authentic? Anything that is not devised and structured to make a profit. Anything that is not controlled by corporations. Anything that exists for its own sake, that assumes its own shape. The modern world is the corporate equivalent of a formal garden, where everything is planted and arranged for effect. Where nothing is untouched, where nothing is authentic."

      — Robert Doniger, in Michael Crichton’s Timeline
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        Mar 4 2013: I don't know that authenticity requires complete transparency, or the revealing of all details. For example, I don't think it is natural to creative thought to do all our thinking aloud, for authors or computer programmers, or draftspeople to share every draft, for teachers to discuss with colleagues or parents every little thing a student does in class, and so forth.
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          Mar 5 2013: no, of course not, but what does transparency mean for business then? do they share what they want or what their customers want to know?

          for instance, if you have a restaurant and you tell me where you get the ingredients from, that's great but not enough. what if i want to know how you treated you providers? as you probably know, some companies, especially the large ones, tend to be abusive when dealing with business partners.
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        Mar 5 2013: Are you thinking that companies in order to be authentic would need to open all their communications in the way that they would were they subject to subpoena, say? So you could get all their correspondence to make a determination for yourself of how they deal with everyone they deal with?

        It seems like a pretty costly and undesirable thing to force businesses to do in general. Were it voluntary, people could choose to patronize only businesses that opt to open all their communications and, of course, the customer would pay a premium to cover the cost that the business would be entitled to pass along from these sorts of services.

        The challenge for the business would be that there are issues of scale in such reporting structures so it would make sense for a business to offer such services only if their customers taken together value that enough to cover the costs of it.
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    Mar 3 2013: i think this issue is actually about the presentation of authenticity. It is nigh on impossible to portray authenticity given that a lot of people (not young children - as they are more open to believing most things at face value) are very media savvy and understand that most advertising is fake or a polished veneer that employs various 'tricks' to present a brand or image to be associated with a company.
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    Gail .

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    Mar 3 2013: Well, it could, I think, but it would have to be fully honest, which would put the business at risk, which would interfere with authenticity in the name of profits.
  • Mar 3 2013: Aren't these the peoople who will set the frame? How does advertising differ from propaganda?
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      Mar 4 2013: great question :) but authenticity is about being transparent and companies don't need advertising or marketing to achieve this goal. the problem is that most companies cannot be completely transparent because making financial information public for instance is not in their advantage (especially when their competitors aren't doing it)
  • Mar 5 2013: I think that is why small businesses exist and are often what keep afloat regional authentic economies!
  • Mar 4 2013: I think loyalty to company and product by both employees and customers may be one measure. It might true employee buy-in to the mission statement of the company, somehow feeling that their contributions are appropriately recognized and rewarded, but ultimately lead to providing a product or service that is both worth doing and worth the price. A lack of authenticity would lead to a hollowness about the work experience, focus on something other than the product, and remove the popular belief that there was something unique and different about what was either being made or bought.
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    Mar 3 2013: Business by definition creates authenticity or no one would buy their products or services. The metric is sales.
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      Mar 4 2013: i'm not sure i understand how that works. we buy most products and services because we need them. sometimes, we choose between similar products or services because they seem authentic, but that is only marketing most of the time.
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        Mar 4 2013: You are talking about trust. If you do not deliver a fair exchange and prove yourself authentic people will not trust you.
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          Mar 5 2013: how important is trust to you when you make buying decisions? would you drive 20 miles to buy from a store you trust? what about a new store or service provider? you can't trust them because they're new.

          my point is that trust is important, but there are other reasons why people decide to buy or do business with companies, like proximity, price, etc.
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        Mar 5 2013: It depends on the purchase, but certainly they will go considerably out of their way for someone they trust. Restaurants for instance go to great lengths to be consistent and earn the customers trust. Walmart goes to great lengths to be the absolute cheapest in order to earn their customers trust.

        In my opinion and decades of business experience the value of trust cannot be over stated.

        Anyway that is about all I have to say about that.
  • Mar 3 2013: Of course.There is a saying from our places:Good wine wouldn't worry selling in deep lane.hehehehh..I translated it's chinese into english.Lol,can you understand what it means?:)
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    Mar 3 2013: I think business can establish links to authenticity but need to pay prices for doing so since its so much easier and more profitable of not doing so.