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Top Three Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference

By Tim Kuppler

Interest in the subject of culture continues to grow dramatically. It’s a hot topic, and for good reason. Research shows Constructive cultures lead to increased profitability, satisfaction, performance, and more. The Annual Ultimate Culture Conference gathers top thought leaders in the field of organizational culture and leadership to provide valuable insight into and discussion around this elusive concept for professionals passionate about shaping workplace culture.

We’ve gathered three key takeaways from last year’s conference to help you make decisions that have a positive impact on culture and business results.

The Members of an Organization Should be Commonly Connected by Purpose

Larry Senn shared his culture epiphany. He explained his experience in the 1960s with a “guy named Sam” at Walmart, where it felt like they could make anything happen because they were commonly connected by purpose. He compared this to his experience at another now-defunct firm in the same industry, where it felt like “going to the morgue.” The only purpose they had was to “maintain the status quo.” He felt “this company [Walmart] is going to take over the world, and this [now-defunct] one is going to die.”

He wanted to understand this difference, and it led to over 40 years of experience in the culture field. Larry shared, “when organizations can align their purpose and strategy with their processes and systems that support that, and the behaviors needed to drive it,” they will be successful.

Put the Culture Principles Next to a Good Theory of Change

Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management and regarded as one of the most influential authorities on organizational culture, focused on change in his keynote. He stressed the importance of having a good theory of organizational change to go along with the more abstract concept of culture.

“The bottom line is, take culture seriously at these many levels, and use the word less,” said Schein. “Use words like ‘I want to change behavior,’ ‘I want to change some kind of a value,’ ‘I want to change the way this organization functions’—get concrete.”

Culture principles from Edgar Schein, Larry Senn, Rob Cooke and other experts are not widely understood and must be coupled with a good theory of change to make a meaningful impact.

Constructive Cultural Styles Are Valued Throughout the World

Regardless of geographical location, “The one unifying principle across the world is that people agree that the constructive styles are functional,” said Human Synergistics CEO Robert Cooke. Constructive cultures promote effectiveness and performance across levels and, in contrast to defensive cultures, are valued by people in every society Human Synergistics has studied.

“One thing that people all over the world agree on: If you’re dealing with a global organization, you want to focus on the Constructive styles” to get the change process started.

These three insights barely scratch the surface of the knowledge shared at the 1st Annual Ultimate Culture Conference. Culture can be a complex topic. It’s often difficult for leaders to integrate best practices as part of an effective approach to solve business problems, improve performance, and effectively evolve or shift their culture.

The culture field is evolving at a fast rate. It’s critical for experts to collaborate on bringing visibility to the research, facts, and, fundamentals of how culture really works, or superficial and oversimplified culture content will continue to dominate the popular press and the work undertaken by many organizations.

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