Reputation: is your company an Austen or an Edgeworth?

Reputation: is your company an Austen or an Edgeworth?

While reading The Nebuly Coat (1903) by John Meade Falkner I came across this arresting statement: “Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth are heroines [of the literary world]…”

Now, Jane Austen I’ve heard of; who hasn’t. But Maria Edgeworth? In 40 years of reading novels I don’t recall ever seeing her mentioned.

And yet, according to Wikipedia, she was “a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe”, admired and imitated by Sir Walter Scott and Ivan Turgenev. Her writing about Ireland and the Irish apparently inspired this stellar duo to attempt something similar for Scotland and Russia. No wonder Falkner bracketed her with Austen.

So what happened? Her writing fell out of fashion, publishers stopped printing her novels and literary critics no longer discussed her work. She disappeared from the radar of most readers, even as Jane Austen’s star shone brighter than ever.

Edgeworth died in 1849, so can hardly be blamed for failing to  promote her books and nurture her reputation. But the same can’t be said for companies that allow their reputations to fall into long-term decline. This week’s Sunday Telegraph carried a salutary reminder of the pitfalls by chronicling the descent of Nokia from the world’s number one mobile phone maker in 2003 to also-ran a decade later. The Finnish giant failed to compete after Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 and its share of the market shrank rapidly.

These examples demonstrate what a fragile flower is reputation – as much in the corporate world as in literature. If you want your company to be an Austen or an Apple rather than an Edgeworth or Nokia, look to your laurels.

Article date

December 2nd, 2014

Richard Cheeseman

Please Post Your Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Would a realignment of British politics be a force for good?

Would a realignment of British politics be a force for good?

Three Conservative MPs have just joined the eight former Labour MPs…

If you think politicians lack conviction these days, just look at this from Tom Watson

If you think politicians lack conviction these days, just look at this from Tom Watson

Politicians here in the UK are deeply distrusted by the voting…