Echoes of the past: Legacy in Family Business

14 October 2022
At the 17th EIASM Workshop on Family Firm Management Research, a research seminar held in Cork in October, Miruna presented her work with Jim Davis & William Gartner on intangible heritage in family businesses at a plenary conference. Here are some details of his presentation...

In search of an intangible heritage ... Some preliminary questions

Where did it all start? We, families, organizations, regions and nations? What is their origin? What is our origin?  What do we leave behind when we leave?

What part of who we are, what we dream about, what we hope for, what we are afraid of comes from someone else's dreams, hopes and fears in the past?

And what about the moral obligations and responsibilities we perpetuate through generations?

How can we keep our future open and our present always new and fresh?

A socialized vision of intangible heritage

Intangible heritage refers us to our condition as human beings. This inheritance needs at least two people to exist – a "sender" and a "recipient", in relation. Immaterial inheritance is something that human beings leave behind and embrace or reject when they receive it from others.

Legacy is about what it means to live together, generation after generation, building on the shoulders of our ancestors and preparing the best possible take-off platform for future generations.

Intangible heritage unfolds over time

The collective and linear time of family generations living successively or together within a family.

Thecollective and linear employment of family members and members outside the family in business, living successively or together in a family business.

But also

The inner time, the secret of our inner world, the time of our memories, the time of our projects, a circular time where we play with the past, the present and the future as with the pieces of a puzzle, a kaleidoscope of events, feelings and thoughts.

Intangible heritage is the foundation of our identity

What comes from the past shapes us as individuals, families, organizations, regions...

Immaterial inheritance is an ingredient of our subjectivities, but also a powerful mechanism of influence aimed at preserving continuity or the status quo instead of favoring individual choice and freedom.

Intangible heritage is a family glue

What comes from our parents and grandparents becomes "sacred" once they are gone...

What we want to pass on to our children is what we consider to be the most valuable and important values and learnings, which can help them live meaningful and joyful lives.

A metaphorical synthesis to define the notion of intangible heritage

Inheritance is a relational entity and process, flying far in time and space, carried by different media – "artifacts" such as stories, houses, symbols, rituals, ... that allow echoes of the past to reach new receptors, who accept or reject them, and in doing so, connect to the intergenerational chain, connect to themselves and others – cognitively, relationally, emotionally and morally.

One wonders if there is a beginning and an end for intangible heritage...

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