Organizational Culture remains Tribal

Marcella Bremer Culture, Leadership 1 Comment

New beginnings! What will the future bring? Futurist Patrick Dixon summarizes the “six faces of the future” in his book “The future of almost everything” as:

Fast – the speed of change, AI, robotics, volatile, everything connected to everything
Urban – urbanization, demography, fashions, fads
Tribal – nations, culture, social networks, brands, teams, all different
Universal – globalization, retail, e-commerce, trade, manufacturing, all the same
Radical – the death of politics, rise of radical activism, sustainability
Ethical – values, motivation, leadership, aspiration, spirituality

Just like six faces of a dice, you can’t see them all at the same time. Fast and Urban are related and on the same side, as are Radical and Ethical. Universal and Tribal pull in opposite directions. They are all “true” at the same time.

Fast results versus lasting bonds

Most executives look at the Fast Urban Universal (FUU) side. One 180 degrees twist, however, offers a very different view: Tribal, Radical, Ethical (TRE).

Do you recognize that? Large corporations operate on the FUU paradigm. Smaller organizations and individual professionals feel inspired by TRE.
That resonates with the culture assessments that I do. Larger organizations have dominant cultures focused on procedures, efficiency, uniformity, and aim for fast results and profits. Smaller organizations foster more inclusive, people-oriented cultures that allow improvisation, learning, connecting, and professional autonomy.
Reality is often FUU, in current organizational culture. What people desire for the future is mostly TRE, in preferred culture profiles. Respondents to culture assessments in smaller organizations with attention for people and renewal (Collaborate and Create Culture types in the OCAI) are most content with their workplaces.

  • What’s your regular perspective? What would change if you considered a side that you don’t see often? What side would you give more attention to this year?
  • Are you more on the Fast Universal Urban track? Or do you walk the path of Tribal Radical and Ethical? Or any other combination?

Dixon states that all people should be futurists to navigate the world. He foresees clashes between opposing trends and a world of extremes with tendencies to intolerance. At the same time, Dixon trusts in the resilience of the world. Humankind has an astonishing and accelerating capacity for genius and innovation.

Let’s look at what Dixon has to say to organizations, leaders, and professionals.

Short-Termism

On the FUU side, there are hundreds of risks. With this speed and interconnectivity, any event or risk that happens could have a 40-year impact in 20 seconds. It’s hard to prepare for these events. Larger organizations are also blindsided by short-termism.

Corporations are run from one 12-week period to the next, caused by legal requirements to report profitability every quarter. It’s not easy to make large-scale strategic moves, which may deliver profits in 5-10 years. Huge annual bonuses make it worse. The average length of tenure in America for a CEO is only five years, and seven years across the European Union. In stark contrast are the family-owned corporations that have a long-term view over generations. It seems evident that a long-term perspective is favorable for the world and a healthy, sustainable future.

  • How could you consider the interest of future generations and people in other parts of the world when you make decisions? How could you enhance a longer-term perspective in your organization?

The office is Tribal

In spite of predictions about robotics and AI, many jobs will still need humans in the near future. Especially service and support roles will continue to increase. People crave better public services around the world, delivered by doctors, nurses, teachers, police, street cleaners, gardeners, therapists, tax officials, administrators, and so on.

The end of the office and the end of paper are also not true. “Humans are genetically programmed to socialize. Great teams love being together as tribes, breathing the same air, and video calls are no substitute for face-to-face trust-building.”
Even IT-companies like Google and Yahoo have discouraged fulltime working from home.
The office will be used flexibly, with partial home-working and informal meetings in coffee shops. More people will work shifts to accommodate time differences in a global economy. Most workers commute to work three times a week, also in the future.

Here’s an opportunity for leaders: develop a culture like a tribe where people want to belong. Strengthen trust and relationships, be a coaching leader, give your people professional freedom, and organize “campfires” to get together and align and exchange purpose, vision, ideas, energy. Tribalism is the fuel of organizations; why people want to go to work: to collaborate with their tribe on something meaningful.

This is what developing a positive culture is about. There may be nothing new under the sun as far as human nature is concerned, but what would happen if you give it more attention this year?

  • How can you develop a more positive culture that is diverse and inclusive, where people bond and are willing to commit to the shared purpose and goals? What can you do to enhance relationships, trust, collaboration, and results? What’s the tribe you’d like to belong to?

Let’s look at Ethics, according to Dixon, in the next post. If you want to get more inspiration from Dixon’s perspective on the future, check out the book “The future of almost everything.”

© Marcella Bremer, 2020. All rights reserved.


Comments 1

  1. If you want to develop a positive culture, you have to develop it in collaboration with all the “tribe”. For a real sense of diversity and belonging all the voices need to be heard in safe spaces for open conversations to happen.

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