Good leaders are a bit like corporate anthropologists. In fact, we are all exotics on the payroll. In my idiosyncratic view, social sciences, psychology and social psychology are busy with what is seen and said, whilst anthropology is annoyingly curious with what is unseen and unsaid. Leaders can’t afford one without the other, but this is a conversation for another day.
In the Era of The Algorithm, we may just forget the social ones. And they are the fabric of the organizational culture.
Social algorithms are, indeed, the tapestry of the culture, the logic in its idea-logic (ideology), the nuts and bolts of its operating system. I call social algorithms the content of the organization’s rule book that is mostly unwritten.
There are in fact, for me, two types of Social Algorithms: the underground ones and the ones that you as leader are installing, consciously or not. To do the latter well, and for good reasons, you need to understand what is going on in the former, in the ‘organization’s underworld’.
At first glance, social algorithms are shy and not completely obvious. Going a bit deeper, some of those rules start to emerge. I have a system to uncover them, but anybody can make the effort to find them. Once this is done, a whole new universe is discovered, and a profound understanding of the organizational culture emerges.
Try to describe them first, imagining situations. It may take a little while to compile a full catalogue. Then, it may start looking like this. Just as an example, as a mixture of underworld and injected:
– If A, we always do B
– We never compromise on C
– In doubt, we do D
– E, F and G are non-negotiable
– H is always reason for dismissal
– When we reach X, we stop (decision, recruitment)
– If noise is up, we go to the source
– The lowest level makes the decision
– We always ask these 3 questions
– From 30 people in 30 days to 3 people in 3 days
– We escalate at Y, Z points
– We ignore N
– We don’t execute straight away, we wait for M
My rule of thumb is that many organizations (as I can see in my clients) work with about 20 of them.
For more thoughts on leadership – look out for my forthcoming book….
Camino – Leadership Notes On The Road
Read NEW extract Chapter 1 part 2 
A collection of notes on leadership, initially written as Daily Thoughts. Camino, the Spanish for road, or way, reflects on leadership as a praxis that continuously evolves. Nobody is ever a leader. Becoming one is the real quest. But we never reach the destination. Our character is constantly shaped by places and journeys, encounters and experiences. The only real theory of leadership is travelling. The only footprints, our actions. The only test, what we leave behind.
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