Culture in the Digital Age
There was a time when your people were inside the castle, and everyone else was on the far side of the moat. In such an environment the social mores, values and mission would over time become recognisable, and so an identifiable culture emerged.
In the corporate world, whilst there wasn’t always a moat or a portcullis, there were very clear admission and indoctrination / induction processes to ensure the ongoing purity of the culture.
The very nature of a corporation is changing in the digital age. As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, corporations are becoming more akin to a portfolio of experiments, or bets, than a well-oiled factory. This is blurring the boundary that separates the organisation from the market. Extranets, freelancers, gig economy workers and crowdsourcing are just some examples of where the boundaries are blurring.
I would suggest that corporate culture today is analogous to that of a railway station. Most people ‘in the building’ at any given time are just passing through with different goals in respect of their destination. There is an increasingly shrinking group of people who provide some permanence in this dynamic environment. They are the station staff, made up of the permanently employed and those on contracts that extend long enough to give the observer the impression they are a permanent fixture.
Such a handful of people are very unlikely to influence the large swirling vortex of busy travellers in respect of their travel plans. But they may make the travelling experience more congenial through light hearted diffusion of customer anger, or through being informative. Or even taking charge when an emergency occurs.
Corporate culture will increasingly be in the hands of a few influencers / catalysts. It will need to truly embrace the needs of all stakeholders, not just those of the shareholders. Otherwise, your ‘influencers’ had better get out of the way and let the passengers get on with their journey.