Challenging the “culture cult”

I was fascinated to read a recent Harvard Business School Review …“We’re thinking about Organisational Culture all wrong” – Written by John Traphagan.

The first two paragraphs gripped me.

“A common thread in the study of organizational culture is the idea of culture as a unifying force that brings people together to work productively toward the attainment of organizational goals. In this approach, organizational culture is understood as a variable to be used in projects of social engineering aimed at creating unity and cohesion.

But that’s not really what culture is about, nor is it a useful way to think about organizations. Why?

Because culture isn’t just about unity; it’s also about division. Rather than a deterministic “thing” that shapes behavior and unifies people, culture is something people use, often strategically, to achieve goals. It can also provide a basis upon which people contest and counter certain ideas and values while accepting other values associated with a particular cultural context.”

I believe the author is right on the button. The real issue is how we behave towards one
another…and to our precious planet. There’s hardly a corporate of any size that doesn’t have a framed statement of either “Our Culture” or “Our Values”, or both…on the letterhead, the website, or framed and hung on the wall at reception.

Yet the behaviours both inside and outside don’t unify the players.

When push comes to shove, we play POWER against and upon one another.
We play like leopards….trained to play independently, for themselves. Not like lions who play in and for the pride.

The challenge we enjoy sharing is helping people learn that they have a choice. They can behave in a way that is divisive and costly, or in a way that creates unity and cohesion and high levels of sustainable energy, that enable them to THINK and THINK TOGETHER much better….the critical capacity for survival in our complex, fast changing and unpredictable world.

We live in two totally unpredictable worlds




Cut open an apple:

First question:

How many seeds are there in your apple?

A simple linear challenge – anything from 5 to 8.  A child can do it easily.

Second question:

How many apples are there in each seed?

That’s a different challenge!

It depends on a whole lot of unpredictable variables – time; money; water; space; soil fertility; diseases and pests – and, and, and ……

We are becoming more and more aware every day that we are living simultaneously in two quite different worlds!

The one is the world we know.  It is predictable, stable and safe.

The other is almost totally unpredictable, uncertain, full of infinite variables and potentially very scary.

We always have lived in both worlds of course.  But we couldn’t see the second, and it certainly didn’t challenge us until the absolute explosion of technology in the last twenty years. The Internet, Facebook, Apple, GPS, Google, IPads, smart phones and literally thousands of free apps have invited us – or forced us – to admit this exciting but infinitely uncertain environment in which we can “fly” or swim or sink!

The key to this challenge is the ability to THINK and to THINK TOGETHER.

High energy individuals in high energy teams do both really well.

Energy Workshop with Nwanda Financials

Colin I recently ran an Energy Workshop for the wonderful staff of Nwanda Financial Services in Bryanston.  My brief was to make them aware of their own energy, and the energy of their peers at the office.
1. Ntsepeng wearing her blue “energy spectacles” (i.e. becoming aware of her own energy).

Blue Energy specs






2. The Trust blindfold exercise with a difference.  The entire group wears blindfolds and they need to listen carefully to their “leader”.  The leader must earn the Trust of the entire group.  No mean feat.








3. In our language we talk about BLUE being high positive energy, and RED being low negative energy. The BLUE and RED balloons make a good picture so the lessons are not forgotten. We ask the delegates to each share one BLUE story and one RED story at their tables.


Leading confidently in a Quantum World

Colin was engaged by Henley Business School to facilitate a Session for the SABMiller Management Development Programme.

Colin’s Session was entitled “Leading confidently in a Quantum World”.

The crux of his Session was that HIGH ENERGY individuals and teams co-create with others, using earned TRUST and sharing relevant INFORMATION.


scrabble1Concentrating on SCRABBLE played without the usual rules!  How does the team maximise its limited resources?  By working with one another, or against one another?



Is that Colin helping the other team to come up with a word worth
1.4 million points?!  That is possible if you think out of the box.


Blindfold exercise:

blindfold3The leader must EARN the trust of his follower in this blindfold exercise.
And stretching your follower to think and act for himself is part of the
exercise.  But this is REALLY stretching the follower!





Stretching followers to think and act on their own is the job of good
leaders. But good leaders give plenty of support too.





Discussion and Learning:

Discussion and learning amongst peers.

Discussion and learning1Discussion and learning2







Breaking Boards:

Breaking a wooden board with bare hands.

breaking boards4This exercise demonstrates that it takes COURAGE to make behaviour changes within a team; but it also demonstrates that the WHOLE team must become involved in the change.  TEAM ENERGY gets the job done.

breaking boards6

SUCCESS. Hold steady Colin!

breaking boards7