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Harness the power of culture

Harness the power of culture

What are the payoffs for those who harness the power of culture? What happens if a leader does not take a positive approach to harness the power of culture?

Drucker famously said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Brilliant as he was, and I am a huge fan, more so since I had the same editorial director, Peter Drucker did not exactly research or create any big works on culture, so can be forgiven for under-estimating just how powerful culture is. Yes, I said under-estimating.

How powerful is culture?

Awesome PurposeStrategy is not even a snack for culture; your most enduring and robust systems barely an appetiser; your much prized flavour of the month initiative not even a mouth-wash rinse.

Would you kill for culture? Where ‘you’ means humans, yes, absolutely yes you would, yes, you have, and yes you will.

More than that, you would willingly die for culture. Hard to swallow, as that may be, you would, you have, and you will continue to kill and die for culture.

You think not? Perhaps a brief look at a single point in history, will help. Pol Pot wanted to change the culture of his country, and the world, to take it back to year zero. He created a culture which went beyond “comply or die.” It was a culture where to be educated was a death sentence. Around 1,500,000 summary executions. If you were a particular type of person no amount of compliance would spare you. This should sound very familiar – from just any one of many possible examples: Nazi Germany.

The power of one on culture

Pol Pot was one person. On his own he couldn’t massacre that number friends, relatives and neighbours in the pursuit of culture development.

Large numbers of people has to support the actions to create the new culture, and they had to agree or buy-in to a transitional culture to get there. That transitional culture was one of brutality, torture and mass murder.

“Oh, well, anyone can find a single point in history to illustrate any point they wish.”
Yes, true.

Then the following single points (!) are just coincidences, are they?

Stalin’s cultural enforcement -estimated genocide figures 15,000,000 to 20,000,000.

Mao Tse Tung’s cultural enforcement -estimated genocide figures 45,000,000. Note: It was even called the cultural revolution. That is, the perpetrators were acutely aware of what they were doing, by which tools and why.

That was also the case for Hitler and his team -estimated systematic genocide figures 6,000,000 (excluding war victims).

Cultural enforcement? Not in my name!

When we look at such acts, we shake our heads and ask disapprovingly: “How could they?”

The more realistic question is: How could I? Yes, you could. Yes, people just like you did. Yes, in the right cultural conditions you would, and maybe you will.

None of us wish to accept that we could perpetrate such horror. If “you” (back to our previous definition of you) were a member of The Communist Party of Kampuchea, you would have, yes, you would, whether you were a leader or one of the foot soldiers.

The compliance of you, the Universal Solider, as in the famous song of that name by Buffy Sainte-Marie, has been required for and perpetrated all atrocities throughout history. And all of those have been in the name of culture.

You are prepared to kill or die to create, impose or protect your desired culture.

Perhaps you think: “Such power evoked in the name of culture is a distant memory, from the dark ages of human evolution.”

“I would rather be dead than red!” The infamous mantra of the anti-communist era in the USA, and the west generally. What does it say? That “you” would gladly kill or die in order to protect your current or desired culture.

If you want to understand Islamic extremism, then, understand culture.

If you want to understand the wars in the former Yugoslavia then learn about culture.

If you want to understand what is happening in Syria, then learn about the factors that control and influence culture.

My culture at any price: good, bad or indifferent

We have explored the dark side of the power of culture. As with most powers, it can be harnessed for any cause you choose: “good or bad.” Or something in between.

The same “you” who created the Declaration of Independence, the United Stated Constitution and the Bill of Rights, thought slavery was acceptable, was happy to commit genocide against an estimated 15,000,000 native north Americans, was entirely happy with racial segregation.

“You” will do anything, good, bad or indifferent, and all three, to create or protect your culture.

As I write this article, “you”, in the west are arguing over what to do about the millions of people who are homeless, dying of cold, hunger, exhaustion and exploitation, in dozens of war zones across the globe, most notably, now, Syria.

While they die, “you” argue that your infrastructure can’t take them.

Of course, that is a proxy for “you” saying, “my way of life, my culture, my comfort with my culture, will be disrupted.”

Yes, “you” will have some small detriment, in the short-term until those in need become integrated.

Rather than face that, “you” are happy to see those in need die. “You” are not committing genocide, “you” are happy to stand by and see people die in full knowledge that “you” could have helped.

Of course, I don’t mean you personally, I mean, the you who is the voice of the collective culture. “You” will not act to help, if “you” think that not acting will create or protect your culture.

Harness the power of culture to achieve good

The Perfect CultureThat same you will also set up the NHS (National Health Service, in the UK) so that all people of your country can have health care at the point of need, free, for life, without the risk of being bankrupted by random chance.

You will work with colleagues to ensure that everyone in your country can read and write.

You (humanity in the USA) will work with colleagues to advance human capability, by putting humanity on the moon, and you will be doubly motivated knowing that by doing so you will protect your culture from the red menace, by winning a psychological battle.

Accept it, you will do anything to create, protect or develop your culture. And if you will, others will, too. That is a truly awesome power, and if understood and harnessed can achieve amazing good.

Harness the power of culture

Changing our definition of you, to mean, you the leader, is that a power you would like to harness for positive ends?

If so, you the leader should know that you can learn how to lead, create, shape and develop your culture very quickly.

The key principles of culture management can be learned in a day of 1:1 coaching, and their application refined over several months.

If you want to learn how to harness the power of culture, if you want to harness a leadership tool that out-powers all the others put together, and then some, contact PsyPerform here.

Please note: if you learn to harness the power of culture, your direct competitors will be locked out for 12 months, giving you a competitive advantage.

Prof Nigel MacLennan Copyright 2016

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