Today i am just #WorkingOutLoud as i start to wrap up development of the new Culture Explorer work. I’ve run three full prototypes of this new programme, and as is typical at this stage, have cycled through about sixty percent of the content: prototyping allows me to develop the overall structure, as well as to test out questions in the underlying Enquiry Framework.
The version i will run with next year has six parts, each of which is, in some way, exploring the exact same landscape, but using a different lens. That’s very much the theme of this work: developing different lenses through which to view culture.
In this new version, the six sections run as follows: ‘Islands of Culture’, ‘Power and Culture’, ‘Stories and Culture’, ‘Feeding Culture’, ‘Agility, Fracture and Failure’, ‘Changing Culture’.
‘Islands of Culture’ is an exploration of two key aspects: togetherness and the other – community and outsiders. It’s a language to understand the socially granular nature of Organisations (and hence culture), and to consider how we ‘trade with’ or ‘visit’ each other. In the prototypes i used a language around reefs: hidden underwater structures that would prevent you sailing directly from one to the other, so we can see the islands, but cannot live on them. This is the foundation work, to explore the limits and boundaries of culture, and the connection to belonging.
Power and Culture uses a more formal lens: how do Organisations consider culture to be something that they ‘own’, or at the very least can steer. We consider which types of power flow through culture, and how those types of power interact: this ties into the broader work on Power and Potential, but is focussed on a cultural perspective (as opposed to the individual Leadership one that that other work considers). We use this to look at who has the ‘power to change’ a culture, and the converse, who has the power to hold it steady, still, or constrained.
Stories and Culture takes a more narrative look at how we use stories to construct culture, to impose it, and to belong within it – how we literally write ourselves into the culture. It considers the ownership of those stories, the intersection of them, and how we hold divergence, and difference, as well as questions of authenticity, intent, action, and impact. Part of this section is to understand how ephemeral culture truly is, more a dream and a belief than a particle or a thing. And yet still very real. We loop this back to the ways that Power flows through these stories.
Feeding Culture is a question about whether we seek to feed it what it knows it likes to tame it, or to slay it. Sometimes in the process of taming culture, we simply appease it, and become trapped within it. It’s an exploration of how culture is dynamic (IF culture is dynamic).
Agility, Fracture and Failure is the newest part of this work (although it draws upon some of the early ideas in ‘The New York Dereliction Walk – which considered fracture – and ‘To The Moon and Back’ – which explored failure) and is based around observation of how these things operate in your own culture. And what value judgements we put around them.
Finally, i try to draw it all together in ‘Changing Culture’, which includes my newest work on ‘change as a social movement’, as well as tying into some of the Quiet Leadership work on leadership in the smallest of actions.
This programme is a bit of a new departure, in that it’s not a broad exploration, but a very focussed on. Whilst the prototypes have gone well, it remains to be seen how it works as i move it into product. Even after prototype, i typically find that i cycle around ten percent of content with every iteration, which is how it should be. Few good ideas remain fixed as good: as our thinking changes, so too should our work.
Would love to get involved Julian, feel free to get in touch if any insights from my work would be helpful. It certainly looks like a new and interesting research angle your sailing into
Thanks Robb, i appreciate that! I’ll be in touch, hope you’re well