Culture is a double-edge sword. On one hand, it can host the most beautiful and sophisticate developments, enhance people’s life, make work meaningful, perhaps exciting and fun, and be the glue that leads to individual and collective success.
However, it could also go the other way by ‘the operating system’ being or becoming stiff, bureaucratic, alienating, defensive (‘people will always take advantage’), risk averse (‘people make mistakes’) and, simply, bad for your health.
The funny thing is that ‘the non-linear nature of the dynamics of the network/organization’ (excuse my language…) provides a very thin line between the excellent and the ugly, the remarkable and the unnoticeable, the enhancing and the weakening. The change is not linear. Good leaders can spot the thresholds and the early warnings.
I am always amazed about how many people say ‘cultures are very difficult to change’ when we are surrendered by examples of both sudden cultural decline and astonishing emergence of new (types of) company cultures.
Also, in culture terms, ‘sustainability’ is a double-edge sword as well. If the culture becomes too sustainable, it will be rigid. It will be similar to what Sugata Mitra (‘Hole in the Wall’, TED prize) said about the British Empire: “They engineered a system so robust, that it’s still with us today, continually producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.”
Solidity, robustness and even ‘sustainable’ are potential liabilities in culture. We can debate the terms for the alternatives: flexible, adaptable, agile, anti- fragile, etc, Each term means different things. But it’s about change-ability, not change. Sustain-ability? Only if we don’t sustain too much.