Huge amounts of effort put into working with organisational and enterprise cultures, in order to change them, transform them, and modernise them. The conventional way of working with cultures is to view them as objects, usually valuable objects, but discrete objects nonetheless. Cultures are audited, surveyed, monitored, in attempts to understand how their value can be transformed. The challenge with using this approach is that culture is not just simply an object. You can’t reify culture, treat it as a thing, an object that can somehow be fixed or upgraded simply by bolting on or replacing some human behaviours.
If you try to view culture as a static object, then all your efforts to try and transform the culture will probably result in a stasis, in a situation that is really going nowhere and not changing in any fundamentally valuable way. To really understand a culture, in order to influence it and transform it, you have to work with it as a dynamic process, a collection, a coalescence of dynamic processes. These dynamic processes are actually the connections between the inner and outer worlds of everyone participating in that culture. Some of these dynamic inner world–outer world connections will have more influence than others, and these levels of influence will emerge, exist and evolve over time.
The culture can be more fully understood by working with these connections, which take the form of the symbolic connections that individuals use to make sense of their cultures. Symbolic connections are part of the feedforward – feedback loop that individuals use to explain and understand their inner and outer worlds. Cultures emerge, exist and evolve through these connections in the form of the stories and the conversations that individuals create about their culture.
Although these stories and conversations might seem inconsequential to the real work and purpose of your culture, these stories and conversations clearly reflect the symbolic connections that individuals are instinctively making between their inner worlds and the cultural outer world. These stories and conversations are not just merely tangential to your culture, they are your culture. Working with Human processes, particularly using tools like Human Echoes, enables you to really understand these stories and conversations, so that you can make choices around amplifying the most meaningful and purposeful connections and dissipating those that are now meaningless and serve no further purpose in your cultural growth.
The stories and conversations that the most influential individuals in a culture usually hear have been heavily mediated by the people reporting to them, or who are trying to impress them, trying to be accepted by them. Working with mediated stories gives a simplistic idealised view of the culture rather than actually actively engaging with the stories and conversations that are being told, which really enable you to understand and influence your culture. By understanding the stories that you are telling, and the conversations that you are creating, you can look beyond them and explore how what is being told now can evolve into the stories and conversations that you really want to hear.
The more that you understand the real stories that generate your culture, rather than the sanitised and idealised stories that are often told by organisational storytellers, the more likely it is that you will actually identify what is your most meaningful work, what your deeper purpose really is and how you can truly explore your wider cultural potential.