Deciphering “The Culture Code”

Deciphering “The Culture Code”

Culture code is like a new pair of glasses that shows us a totally different angle of everything that goes on in the world. It is an ingenious way to understand the reasons behind people’s actions, prejudices, and attitudes.

How could it be that some tasks get better done by some groups, who apparently do not possess superior skills that differentiate them individually? How is it that under extreme crisis situation some informal groups come together to cooperate to solve the complex puzzles? How is vulnerability a virtue and by demonstrating vulnerability cooperation is better ushered in?

Daniel Coyle in his book, ‘The Culture Code’, has reminded us on his first page that the word culture has a Latin origin which means care. Now, how on earth you may be thinking does culture have to do with human care?

“The Cultural Code methodology goes hand in hand with the concept of imprinting. Together, they are like the key and the lock: If you describe an imprint, you can open the code. If you open the code, you can describe the reasons behind a people’s actions, prejudices, and attitudes.”

But actually, culture is about caring only. Think of the early Hominins and you would notice that their display of warmth and empathy was so much evident through their embrace, touches or verbal and non-verbal messages leading to companionship, camaraderie, and social togetherness. The touch of the hand or the arms is the universal language of care that runs in every human interaction; the culture of being together stems from the trust built among people through interactions of all kinds. The question is how do the people come together to do something of which they had no clue before embarking on the job? The answer lies in culture, that is how the group cares for achieving by getting to the task in a shared understanding of the tasks at hand against the collective spirit of solving the puzzles together that ensues in course.

The essential question will revolve around how to draw cooperation that would effectively help to piece together a task at hand? Think of the brilliant German soccer team at the World Cup or the ordinary group of people (the Dabbawallas) carrying quarter million tiffin boxes with lunch packed from quarter million homes to be delivered to specific individuals in a specified period during the day. Doing this day in and day out with almost zero mistakes is quite a task. Is there anything in common?

I was looking at the face of Joachim Löw, The German Soccer Coach, when he appeared dispassionate watching the soccer match between Germany and Sweden when his team was trailing by a goal which meant a definite ouster from the World Cup. As a coach, he had helped to build the culture of the team that would always do its best given the circumstances. He saw them working autonomously to respond to a given crisis situation on the ground, that is what their culture was all about. The team looked vulnerable and that exuded the building of cooperation in the team; each player was trying to help the other and while at least ten chances were missed to score, no one got exhausted to try even harder. Daniel Koyle builds his story around the principles of culture that get ingrained into groups as they come together to care for something common. Their ability to find solutions will come from their take on the challenges together. According to him, a great culture has to do with a group’s ability to align with three essential skills: safety, vulnerability and purpose – all of which are related to trust.

The story of Flight 232 that lost the entire hydraulics in the aircraft is about how the crew worked together and cooperated to make a safe landing; a wonderful example of how the vulnerability loop works, as all that the pilots did was ask for help from the fellow passengers instead of showing that they were in control of the situation.

Or take the example of Red Balloon challenge where completely unknown people trusted each other to get to the whereabouts of ten balloons hidden in a 3 Million square mile space in the whole of US. The task’s enormity required the building of trust with completely unknown people as there was no other way one could possibly sweep across the entire country of U.S. to find ten hidden balloons.

“Culture is what differentiates one group from the other and that is in itself the glue that binds a group to stay connected to the goals set out.”

When the task gets harder, like finding a market for your new product or like completely changing your product mix one needs to look at the culture that exudes trust when you seek the support and help of people from whom you had not sought help and cooperation before.

Bringing people together needs care, that is what culture is all about; some do it by sheer hard work, discipline and challenging the paradigm that sets in. Some do it by simply asking for help and demonstrating the vulnerability. Either way, the purpose is to care for the people and finding.


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