5 Essential Attributes to Evolve Through Disruption

culture Jul 22, 2021

In the first lockdown, we made significant progress towards flexible work arrangements. As things eased, rather than allowing genuine worker-led flexibility, there has been a desire to control when and how people work.

While a lot of organisations have picked up the language and concepts of complexity and adaptation during our recent disruptions, our observation is that many of their mindsets and practices continue to reinforce current paradigms and limit the capacity to genuinely adapt. In short, the talk is different but the walk’s the same.

In our research on adaptive cultures, some mindsets and practices that we have found which are much more aligned with a fluid, complex world include the following five attributes:

  1. Culture is not a destination; it’s an evolution! Culture is constantly evolving as the organisation adapts to its changing world. Ensure any method to measure or progress culture accounts for its evolving nature.
  2. Experimenting and safe-fail tests are essential to learn and become more agile. Embracing each imperfect experiment as a learning opportunity is essential to creating the conditions for people to feel they can genuinely experiment and explore.
  3. Adaptation is essential. People are able to distinguish between adaptive challenges (without a clear definition and requiring new learning) and technical problems (easy to define and apply current knowledge to solve) and realise that their capacity to learn and grow is essential for the organisational culture to learn and grow.
  4. Communication occurs fluidly across, down and up the organisation; this allows increasing awareness of the broader organisational system, and of the consequences of actions. It also leverages diversity to build the collective intelligence of the organisation.
  5. The elephants are named. Through a combination of trust and courage, difficult issues are discussed and ideas to address these are shared.


As Otto Scharmer said:

“The quality of results produced by any system depends on the quality of awareness from which people in the system operate. The formula for successful change is not ‘form follows function’ but ‘form follows consciousness’.

To create truly adaptive organisations requires ongoing work to keep raising the awareness and consciousness of individuals, groups and collectives in order to act with alignment and integrity.

Interested to learn more, we can help!

Adaptive Cultures exists to enable Cultural Evolution for the good of people and planet. We believe cultures are not static. They are living systems that evolve, sometimes devolve and rarely stay the same. Through our extensive research and working with many organisations, it led us to this whitepaper identifying pathways to cultural evolution. Our frameworks and methodologies are bespoke and are truly adaptive to support organisations at different stages of cultural evolution.

Each year, we run a Practitioner Development Program for leaders, facilitators, business transformation and culture practitioners who would like to become more adaptive and courageous in guiding cultural evolution. The Program supports participants with the knowledge, skills, frameworks and personal development required to become world-class culture and change practitioners. This 12-month program focuses on immediate application and impact through organisational case studies. Practitioners find they develop greater confidence, courage and compassion in navigating the significant challenges of transforming systems.

Or you may be interested in our Culture Diagnostic which measures an organisation’s ability to achieve, adapt and evolve. Through our research and case studies, we created the Adaptive Cultures Framework that helps organisations to identify their current and aspirational stages of cultural maturity. The Framework feeds the Culture Diagnostic and helps organisations to focus their cultural evolution efforts and initiatives in areas that will make the biggest difference.


Our Adaptive Cultures Community

Our Global Community is an enriching space for culture practitioners to share, learn from, explore and develop emerging practices in support of their clients developing needs. On our community platform we share methods and tools, ask questions, conduct developmental conversations and learn together.

Join Our Community

Read the Adaptive
Organisations Whitepaper

Download our Adaptive Organisations Whitepaper and learn how to evolve through change and complexity. To receive a copy, please fill in your details below and a copy will be emailed to you.