Interrogated by a journalist: ‘Mr Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?’, Mr Gandhi answered: ‘I think that it would be nice.’
Here are some translations for us in companies:
What do you think of our Culture?
What do you think of our Corporate Social Responsibility?
What do you think of our Company Values?
What do you think of our Identity?
These and other questions share something in common. They each have a label. But the label is no guarantee of anything. Values, identity, responsibility, culture are all ‘concepts’ full of rich language. It’s not until you de-construct them that you can see the reality of what is behind them. In the absence of doing that, they should remain in the ‘it would be nice’ category. Yes, it would be nice to have one of these, so now let’s figure out what exactly we mean by this.
Language is a beautiful thing. It is also a deceiver. In our organizations, we need to have the courage to define what we mean by things. That is one of the reasons (only one) why in my organizational work we focus obsessively on behaviours: concrete, visible, with unequivocal meaning.
I use the ‘Gandhi’s question’ often with clients. It always works well. It helps us to come down to earth and look seriously at the reality, good or bad. If the answer is, ‘well, it would be nice to have one of these’, we may just be on the right path to finding it.