Monday 2 July 2018

#DWX18 Brian Solis on Culture 2.0

Probably my most favourite presentation at Digital Workplace Experience was on Culture 2.0, delivered passionately by Brian Solis and also illustrated beautifully by Gaping Void.

Brian noted that 62% of participants in a survey he ran with CapGemini suggested that culture is the #1 hurdle to digital transformation. Culture is your biggest competitive advantage or your greatest disadvantage. It is the lifeblood of any organization and defines how people treat each other and how they relate to customers and stakeholders of all kinds. All of that aligns with my own experience too.

However, Brian also noted that culture is ephemeral and is defined by the experiences people have and share. This makes it one of the most talked about but least understood assets in any company.

In my own later session on the organisation design of digital transformation, I argued against using the term culture. For me this thing that we're talking about is so important that we need to break it down and focus on the parts we can understand. Nobody understands what culture means, or if they do, they have various different understandings. (They often don't understand digital either, so if you put the two together you've got real problems. For example, in Brian's survey 40% of leaders said they believe their organisation has a digital culture, but only 27% of employees said the same. That means nothing. Other than that nobody understood the question.)

But I do agree with Brian’s diagnosis of executive out-of -touchness. Eg he suggested that collaboration is one of the strongest aspects of digital cultures, but even here, although 85% of leaders said it is easy to collaborate in their organisations, only 41% of employee agree. There is a growing disparity between business agendas and employee needs. I agree that this is why focusing on employee experience is so important.

Experience is something you feel and interpret in the mind which lies behind how people feel and react. The digital workplace supports our focus on employee experience become new technologies work in modern ways. And this makes it possible to look at what's possible with work.

I also argued against talking about culture because from an organisation design perspective we focus on the elements we can control rather than the emergent outcome we can’t. (However, I mentioned that if I was invited back again to speak about organisation development and the digital workplace next year then I’d emphasise culture to much greater extent.)

For example Brian suggested the following attributes of a digital culture:

And these titles look fine, don’t they. But I’d still encourage organisations to work out what’s really important for them rather than following somebody else’s checklist. Then these things need to be cascaded through an organisation’s architecture, and taken on by the society of people who work there.

This last point is important. As Brian stressed, culture change isn’t simply a business initiative, it’s a social initiative. 80% of what we learn is done socially.

Brian suggested this new approach of human-centred cultured design focused on employee experience is what he means by Culture 2.0. I love this idea, with the exception of the word culture. So perhaps Organisation 2.0. Or The Social Organization?

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