A school bell, pear tree and swastika.

Sandy and I were on the West Coast on October 2, 2006 when Americans paused to focus on Lancaster County and the Amish school shooting. It was a bit odd absorbing the shocking news so close to home from that great distance. The Amish community decided to tear down that one-room schoolhouse and rebuild on a different site. Who could blame them? We later learned they saved the school’s bell, and placed it atop the new building. What a symbol of their remembering the past while moving forward.

Just five years earlier, the world watched on TV the horror that was unfolding in New York City. It took me hours that day to shake the trance caused by the stunning enormity of what just happened. As I watched Building The 9/11 Memorial documentary 10 years later, I learned of a 10-foot pear tree that was mostly buried in the rubble, yet miraculously survived. They salvaged it, replanted it elsewhere and nursed it for 10 years. Amid the beautifully-designed, glistening memorial with hundreds of fresh new trees, was replanted this modest-looking, still a little gnarly, now-30-foot tree. What a symbol of our country’s resilience and resolve.

Other symbols represent hope (like the yellow LIVESTRONG wristband) or remind us of the worst of humanity (like the swastika). Whatever the intended or unintended purpose, symbols are powerful ways to make a statement and – without words – shape perspectives. At Scheffey, we use them often in developing logos. They can capture the organization’s intrinsic character or provide a mark to which the organization is moving.

Does your organization have a symbol? If not, what would it be? It doesn’t have to take the form of a logo. Adopt a symbol to rally your team, regain focus or lead a change process. It’s even ok to have a little fun with it. That helps make it more memorable.