Culture is like a gallon of paint. Imagine an open container of white paint. It represents a moment in time – Mexico before Cortez, travel before the Wright Brothers, or music before the Walkman.®
A siphoning tube leaves a can of red paint stopping inches above our container of white paint. The tube allows one drop of red to fall into the white per day, every day, for a year. The level of paint in the can rises, but the color appears not to change. A cleaning cart bumps the table supporting our imaginary experiment, and the liquid begins to slosh out of its container. The red paint at the bottom of the can starts to rise and mix with the white paint. The back and forth movement of churning liquid creates its own inertia. The white paint turns an assertive pink. Observers are both surprised and confused. How could such a dramatic change happen, and so quickly?
Like our experiment, culture changes continuously. It occurs whether we are aware of the changes or not. Parents fail to notice when their children become adults. Governments fail to recognize the dissatisfaction of its citizens until it becomes unrest. Businesses that fail to notice the collision of cultures as a result of an acquisition or merger are doomed to disappointing results.
Discerning the elements that comprise a particular culture – its rituals, images, and artifacts makes it possible to identify the shared values of seemingly disparate organizations. This understood, we can stimulate opportunities for connection rather than confrontation, promote warmth, not combustion and facilitate collaboration without capitulation.
Note, Noted, and Noticed: Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future is worth your time. Left-brain skills (logical, analytical, sequential), while still necessary, are becoming a commodity, Pink argues, while right-brain talents (artistic, empathic, more about context than content) will be at a premium in the future. Pink writes with charm and humor about subjects that heretofore were rarely, if ever, charming or funny.
We see what you’re saying.SM
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