What stories do we need to tell about records?

Stories are one of the most powerful tools in existence for getting people to buy into an idea.

If we tell the right ones.

I have a working theory though, that most of the stories we tell about records,

are the wrong stories,

for the wrong people.

I’ve found our stories almost always fall into three categories –

  1. “What if we need this for…” (FOI, Legal Discovery).
  2. Diligent and unceasing practice will prevent all manner of harms (corruption, poor outcomes etc.).
  3. Historians will need these.

Of course, those stories are all true.

But who do they motivate?

The FOI officer will deal with the FOI – but doesn’t do the rest of the work.

The sad reality of harms is that they will only get funded after the next royal commission, or corruption investigation (so focusing on this story doesn’t stop it happening).

And we don’t know who the historians are, or what their priorities will be – we just know that they’re not ours, right now.

What stories do we tell people at the coal face about how the lives of people at the coal face are made easier by records?

What stories do we tell managers about how the lives of managers are made easier by records?

What stories do we tell executives about how records helped executives achieve strategic outcomes?

What our stories lack, is immediacy.

Clinical documenters get it right.

The stories they tell are compelling, and they go right up the chain.

Get this record wrong, or lose it, and there’s a good chance that the person in it will die.

Front liners don’t want to kill people.

Managers don’t want to be the manager whose team killed anyone.

Executives know that running the division that kills people will wreck any chance they have of getting anything strategic done.

Records stories in most other places aren’t quite as dire.

But they can be just as immediate, and even more certain.

Almost every front-line worker will rely on records, and their performance will be improved by having them.

Almost any manager will fall all over themselves for anyone who can make their team 10% more productive – and records can.

And in the past, we gave people surnames so that we could create great records, tax them reliably, and govern them effectively. So records can also be a strategic weapon worthy of the title.

If we tell the right stories.

So what are your favourites?

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