The Baby and the Bath Water – Highlights of Adaptive Cultures Workshop

perspectives Oct 17, 2016

In early October, Adaptive Cultures launched its inaugural public workshop in Melbourne. There were some fabulous discussions around the different challenges each participant’s organisation faced and the opportunities for developing a way to enact their cultural journeys.

One of the most powerful conversations on the evening was the baby and the bathwater – in any cultural journey, there is a risk that the current culture will simply be abandoned for a new approach. This is often driven by a new senior executive with a clear mandate to “fix up” the business. While change may be necessary, the dark side of abandoning the current culture is that we don’t just let go of what is not useful, we also throw out or disregard the valuable aspects. Some people described this as a pendulum effect, where the cultural aspiration swings from one extreme to another, without integrating the best of the past with the new.

Approaches discussed on the evening to address the pendulum swing include:

  • Shift the way we talk about culture from change (out with the old and in with the new) to evolve (grow from where we currently are, building on strengths and letting go of aspects of the culture that no longer serve us).
  • Pay attention to what we can learn from the past. There is often enormous value and wisdom in the learnings from what hasn’t worked; this knowledge and wisdom, if harnessed, can be a strategic differentiator.
  • Identify the path from current to future climate, so that current climate is actually acknowledged – many cultural journeys often start at future aspiration without any consideration for the present. Note that the future climate described is part of an ongoing journey, not a final destination.
  • Transcend and include: As our world becomes more sophisticated and complex, so do our means of adapting. For example, an organisation desires to shift from a compliant to a results oriented culture. In practice, the results focus often replaces compliance. There are several financial institutions currently facing the consequences of this. The organisation needs to build the capacity to BOTH comply AND deliver results.
  • Enablers of change must have a deep awareness of the human and organisational systems they are within. This level of awareness of culture only comes with a deep level awareness of self. Personal insight helps the leader to build the capacity to grasp all of the past, the present and the future, and to be able to hold an aspiration for their organisation through that journey.
    Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to what was a truly memorable event.

Our next workshop will be held in Sydney in February 2017 – click here to register.

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