Getting Clear about Culture
If we don’t understand the essence of culture …
- We can’t work with Organisation Culture
- We can’t do effective work in the field of Diversity
- We can’t support corporate clients or individuals in Transcending Cultural Barriers
Core concepts of Culture are …
… not in themselves; all in interrelationship.
We live in an interconnected interdependent interrelated world.
Indeed, life is so complex that we will probably never completely understand it … whatever “understand” may mean here.
It is also dynamic, therefore unpredictable. From the continuously expanding field of work on complex systems, we know that an event anywhere in the world can influence another far away. We don’t necessarily know how and we certainly cannot accurately predict such cause-and effect outcomes.
We are part of this world, living organisms and organisations are living eco-systems.
We can’t control anything – control is an illusion/delusion … We can however shape our interactions with the world … and this entails working WITH the world as it really is … WITH culture as it really is … a dynamic eco-system of which we are always a part.
My interactions with the world emanate from ‘me’ … how I perceive the world. Yet, this is always in relation to others and environment. The range of experiences in your life determine … what you believe to be true about the world and your interactions with it; what you consider so significant, you value so highly that when you perceive it to be missing from any interaction, it becomes a problem; what you identify with to the extent that you feel it is an integral part of your being.
Culture is at the core of who you are. However, it is not static. It’s dynamic. You change …
We live in a continuously changing world and we are part of this change. As we move through life, we broaden our range of experiences and change, consciously or otherwise. We grow, from infants to children to youths to young adults to middle-aged adults to older adults. We learn as we move through life collecting personal and professional experiences on the way. This is the dynamic of culture.
Human beings are nature, not apart from nature. Nature evolves, which is change. Our feelings change as we experience different environments, including the company of different people. This too is culture.
We notice drastic changes in our circumstances and in the environment and are likely to strongly notice the feelings we have as a consequence of these changes. We may not be so conscious of the shifts caused by the flow of nature of which we are a part. Nevertheless, they are still present in our environment. This continuous change is also culture.
Mechanistic perspectives of our world look upon culture as apart from us as humans. Only when we recognise ourselves as nature, an element of the environment(s) in which we function, can we move WITH this flow. Every new encounter changes how we feel. Every conversation shapes culture. The change occurs in the liminal space … that space that is actually undefinable, between the elements – the interlocutors, the physical environment.
What is Culture?
The continuously evolving dynamic interaction of mindsets and gutsets of actors in the system(s).
It is the essence of who we are, determining why we do what we do.
Culture is the Soul.
It’s merely a notion but all pervading.
You can feel it; you can sense it; yet you can neither touch it nor see it.
It affects our feelings and every experience we have, yet generally, we are completely unaware of its presence and impact.
Culture evolves with our experiences.
Experiences are learnings, consciously or otherwise. Our thoughts and feelings about the context, places, people, environment of all our experiences change as new ones come into our life.
Culture is a dynamic … continuously evolving.
This continuously evolving dynamic at times reflects significant shifts that we see as change.
Nothing in nature is constant.
We humans are nature: we evolve, we change.
Working with Culture in Organisations
Organisations may not be part of nature, but some significant their inter-related, inter-dependent component elements are: they evolve, they change. Organisations are organisms.
When we see and work WITH Culture as the Soul of the Organisation, we enable ourselves to shape it healthily.
The starting point is a period of discovery, with the Question …
What are the patterns that underlie the foundation of the organisation, the patterns that define its feel, its raison d’être, the way it interacts internally and with the outside world?
When we have found the answers to this Question, we can begin to work on Shaping the Desired Organisation.