Kleider machen Leute

November 27, 2013

In Gottfried Keller’s 1874 novella “Kleider machen Leute” (translation: “Clothes make the man”), the fine clothes worn by Wenzel Strapinski, a tailor’s apprentice, lead to him being mistaken for an aristocrat. His life takes a new path of good fortune but as the story around him grows, he loses control of the situation and after a short sweet sabbatical from his real life, it all unravels. Being a kind of fairy tale, it all works out well in the end, thanks, of course, to true love.

Something similar is happening to all of us today—people and organisations alike—but as  happy an outcome as Wenzel’s is far from guaranteed. In a world where information,  communication and transactions are increasingly taking place online, we are becoming what we appear to be to the various electronic services we use or are used by others, whether we like it or not. At the same time, we are being given a unique and perhaps one-time-only opportunity to shape the image that will end up defining us to the world, and being set the challenge of keeping control of that image as we move forward. There’s a lot at stake, just as there was for Wenzel. What would we rather be: prince or pauper; in control of our destiny, or victim to it?

The answer to me, of course, involves story. But we all need to give a lot more thought to what all this means. To further fuel those thoughts, why not look at Gartner Group’s Christina Milanesi’s take on the future of smartphones and what that means to us (follow the below link). If you want someone to help think this through with you, call me.


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