From Culture Change to Cultural Evolution

culture perspectives Nov 24, 2016

“I’m not losing my toes for this organisation!”


This was a comment from a participant in a major change initiative, where the major metaphor of high altitude mountain climbing was used to inspire images of sacrifice to achieve.


Culture Change is often embarked on because we realise the current culture is toxic, frustrating or at the very least inhibiting the organisation’s aspirations. Yet the notion of change often implies that something is broken and needs to be fixed. Alternatively, that change is “done to” people. There is sometimes a stench attached to the term culture change, given how many culture change initiatives (somewhere around 70%) don’t achieve their original goals and aspirations.


In some recent Adaptive Cultures workshops in Europe, our clients have observed that the reframe of cultural change to cultural evolution makes a profound positive difference to their experience of culture initiatives. Some of the benefits identified by participants are captured in the following comments:


  • “We can take the best of the current culture with us on our journey of cultural evolution”. Organisations don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Read our “baby and bathwater” blog for some further insights.
  • “ We feel accepted as we are not made to be wrong or a throwback from the past. This really helps to feel engaged and actually ignites my desire for change”.
  • “ Culture is an ongoing journey without a final destination and therefore we need to continue to pay attention to the journey.”
  • It is important to name situations that need to evolve and why, even when there isn’t yet a solution”. Indeed, awareness is the first step.
  • “There is a tremendous effort required to sustainably evolve as opposed to running a one-off culture change project. By recognising this, we are much better able to identify necessary resources, and take a longer term approach”
  • “There is a sense of empowerment that is released when we are participants in change rather than recipients of change.”
  • “It makes sense!! It follows a natural path that people can relate to and resonates with our own life experiences.”

When organisations truly understand the notion of cultural evolution, tremendous energy is released in the organisation, as can be seen in these client comments. If you would like to explore this further please download our whitepaper, or attend our upcoming workshop in Sydney. In 2017 we will be launching an accreditation programme – join our mailing list to keep up to date with launch dates.

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