I keep coming back to culture this week: i’ve had so many people kindly sharing their thoughts and feedback that i can’t put it down. Today, i want to think about heritage and history vs co-creation and current activity. When Antony Jenkins, Chief Exec at Barclays, spoke recently about taking five to ten years to repair thirty years of damage to trust, he placed the current financial crisis in a historical context. Culture is always contextual: work for Rolls Royce or Wileys and you step into a culture steeped in history and past glory. Walk in the door of Google or Apple and the history is shorter, but still deeply embedded.
But is that actually culture, or is it just stories? Are the beach huts and portraits of past chairmans interior decoration or heritage? Do they actually matter, or are they just the canvas on which we paint?
By inclination, i want to say ‘yes‘, but that’s largely a view anchored in the old world, where the four walls of the office still exist. If i think about our experience of culture, the ways our colleagues treat us, the ways we make decisions, what our communities think of us, how proud we are, i am thinking in the present and that perception is based largely on actions. That’s why i say that culture is co-created right now and co-owned in our everyday reality.
It’s painted on a heritage, a historical canvas, but it’s created and experienced today.
The notion that culture is grounded in our carpets and wallpaper, that it’s somehow tangible and a function of age sounds suspiciously like the older models of authority and expertise based in longevity and position that we are also toppling in the Social Age. They’re myths. Subverted by reputation, subverted by actions. It’s not just your brand that’s owned by the community these days: it’s your culture too.