3.22 – Indicator Events

One benefit I’ve noticed of writing this thesis every day for a month is that as events, moments, links and the like float past, you can grab the best bits and weave them in as you go. It helps test the proposition at the centre, and makes for more visceral evolution of it.

To that end; Dan Hon’s latest newsletter floated past my boat in a bottle this morning. I fished it out, uncorked it, and found inside another bottle with a message, from Deb Chachra.

(This is where the metaphor breaks down, sorry. A message in bottle in a message in a bottle. A meta in a bottle.)

It’s a short essay about Indicator Species, written in response to something Dan wrote on the culture of Silicon Valley about the people, their actions, and general behaviour. But it’s not just about the people, points out Deb:

“What Dan was describing was not just the actions of individuals, but of a system. It’s not so much that tech bros are bad in and of themselves, it’s that they’re a indicator species for an ecosystem. Like an algal bloom, their overabundance is a sign that the balance is amiss.”

Massive zings went off in my head, reading the whole thing. And it’s not just because I’ve been drinking seawater these last three days after the supplies ran out in the boat.

The idea of the ‘indicators’, the ability to be able to look beyond the thing itself, and work out what’s going on instead around it to cause it seems to be the usefulness that the Culture Matrix offers up. By the very nature of its construction, it invites you to find one precise place on the grid to put a thing, which subsequently then invites you to surmise what might be going on in the other spaces around it.

 

Culture Matrix 1.04  Indicators

 

A random example, of something I was talking to folk yesterday about in the pub.

When Fast Food companies fund kids’ sporting events, what’s going on? The event sits in the LEADERSHIP/SOCIETY intersection; a platform created within the context of the world outside their walls. What’s it driven by? Is it just a marketing thing? I’m pretty sure not; there are much cheaper ways to market fast food.

The answer is more complex. It’s a form of justification to protect the short-term commercials; they can’t afford to really change our menu (and evolve a new customer base over the loinger term), so they offset that activity with other stuff (COMMERCE/SOCIETY).

However, it’ll also be driven by a smaller team; the folks who do it will really believe they’re making a difference inside and outside the organisation (LEADERSHIP/TEAM).

I could keep finding boxes on the Culture Matrix to examine the question, but you get the idea; you find an INDICATOR EVENT, and then start to discover what that says about the ecosystem more widely, to Deb’s point above.

What it does make me realise is that there’s probably a great deal of what you might call organisational empathy required to use the Culture Matrix well. How well can you imagine why people in a business are doing what they do?

Dan has talked about the need for much greater customer empathy within companies (try scrolling down here to ‘Chief Empathy Officer’ for instance), but empathy is something that I think is required internally too.

What makes people do what they do, and take the decisions and make the products they do? And therefore what can we see in the different parts of the ecosystem that could be changed, so they make better decisions?

 

ACTION 22 – THINK ABOUT WHY YOU MADE A BAD DECISION AT WORK

PREVIOUSLY – 3.21 – Culture Matrix

NOW READ: 3.23 – Wrong Instrument

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