What is an Authentic Organization?: An elevator speech

by cv harquail on November 17, 2010

Last week I went to a program sponsored by the NYC chapter of GirlsInTech and directed towards (women) tech entrepreneurs and (potential) venture capital professionals. After the program, I had great conversation with some of the entrepreneurs about their ‘pitches’ — the 5 sentence elevator speeches that they give to convey the core idea of the business they are creating.


So, what was my elevator speech? they asked.  While I’m always able to answer the question ‘what do you do?’ ¹ more or less succinctly, the next question ‘What is an Authentic Organization?‘ is harder to answer in a simple, concise and compelling way. So when one of the entrepreneurs teased me that I had to work on my ‘elevator speech’, I promised her that I’d post my elevator speech here.

What is an Authentic Organization?

An organization is authentic when its actions, its character, and its sense of purpose are aligned with and support each other.

An organization can be authentic only when:

The organization knows ‘who it is” and what characteristics make it distinctive. People in the organization understand why these distinctive features are meaningful.

The organization knows what it is striving to create in this world. It has a sense of purpose that goes beyond the products and services it offers.

The organization knows how its distinctiveness fuels and adds unique insight to the pursuit of organization’s purpose.

The organization has a few signature actions, behaviors and products that bring to life the organization’s meaning, and move it towards its purpose.

Both the purpose and the distinctive, meaningful characteristics of the organization resonate with stakeholders and draw members, customers, and constituencies to the organization.

The organization actively supports its members, customers, and constituencies in their own authenticity as they work with the organization to achieve its purpose.

At an average rate of 150 words per minute, this answer would take me 63 seconds to deliver.
— So, PKJ, did I meet the challenge?


¹ Answer: I help organizations align their identity and actions with a larger purpose, so that the organization, its members, and even its stakeholders, can be more authentic.

See also:
Authentic From the Start-Up: 4 Tips from Cindy Gallop and IfWeRanTheWorld
3 Questions for a Quick Assessment of Your Organization’s Authenticity
The 3 Inviolable Rules of Authentic Organizations

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Bret Simmons November 17, 2010 at 10:36 am

I like it, CV. But *why* do you do this? Why is it important? That’s your purpose.

cv harquail November 17, 2010 at 10:52 am

Hi Bret-

The ‘why do *I* do it?’ is question number 3. Usually takes longer than an elevator ride to answer though.

And yes, just like the authentic organization needs to understand the link between who it is/what makes it distinctive, and why it can do & does the work it does, so does the authentic person.

I’ll write about this soon, too. thanks for the nudge. cv

Chrysula Winegar November 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm

So in essence an authentic organization is the same as an authentic individual. It’s all about real life behavioral integration and alignment with the stated vision, purpose and culture.

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