Organisation Organizational culture

Organizational Culture and Tribal Mindsets

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Sicore

Change and transformation

I hazard a guess that many would argue, transforming companies, innovating, responding to altered circumstances is about looking at all aspects, measuring benefit or assessing KPI’s (key performance indicators). However, none of this makes the blindest bit of difference if we continue to create gods in the vision of ourselves who fail to implement effective result in operations — for the simple reason people are not aligned to your cause. I doubt you’ll find ‘Playing God’ on the measuring scale.

So transformation first and foremost, has to arise from the ability to see self as it becomes, not as we have perceived it to be. It is about understanding how we see ourselves. Individuals work in teams, teams are managed by directors, directors report to those at the top making all the decisions, and yet does this represent the people and fit-for-purpose of an organisations strategical viability and validity?

To really understand this, we need some examples we can all relate to, no matter what level of the ladder we presently reside in order to understand the difference between what I’ll call the ‘old mind’ and the ‘new mind.’ To understand this aspect of ‘minds’ in more detail, I’ve spent some time looking at the sort of jobs being offered on the corporate level.

The old mind

You will have the opportunity to be part of a strong and dedicated team that is responsible for Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Strategic Projects.

Here you are being provided with an opportunity, you will be a part of a great team and have a lot to live up to since we expect a lot of what you do. It is based on the ‘expectation of performance’. It also places the candidate in a position of having to perform and places the candidate under the auspices of ‘expectation of delivery’. This example is a typical job description, in this instance taken from a major media company in connection with ‘strategy and projects’. Let’s look at this in a little more detail. This is telling you what you have to do:

Working as a Consultant you will be exposed to a variety of challenges and tasks. To lead and participate in strategic projects across the company, you need to participate in processes, conducting analysis and other decision support, solving problems in a structured and analytical manner and communicating insights and results to senior decision makers.

Let’s try and conduct a little analysis ourselves. To lead… you need. First, this is telling you how to lead. ‘To lead… you need.’ You are not being given a choice. It is saying, ‘we have decided that,in our infinite wisdom, that to lead successfully, you really do need to do it this way.’

Second, let’s look at that wonderful mantra of the old world — ‘problem solving.’ Solving problems in a structured and analytical way?

… solving problems in a structured and analytical manner and communicating insights and results to senior decision makers

If there is one thing I have learned (as an architect and innovator amongst many other things), it is that the only sure way to limit the scope of problem management, it is to do it in an analytical and structured way. It is as if conducting an empirical study of a fixed entity that can be dissected and treated as small parcels of information that can be analysed and number-crunched leading to the Utopia of enlightenment.

Implicit in the message is that in reality, by sending number-crunched byte-analysed wonders-of-wisdom up the line to the senior decision makers, you then pass power of judgement on to ‘the greater minds’. However, if they are the type who see themselves as gods who have the true insights needed to really know what to do with the information, your part played is one of ‘the grand scheme of divide and conquer’. Let it be said — this is all an illusion.

Reality for companies is generally based on an invisible culture of illusion. As Alan Hamilton of IBM writes (Business Partner Technical Leader in Europe for Collaboration Solutions), the utopian dream of culture is that we are all going in the one direction: ‘Cost cutting, productivity programs, motivational speakers and all the other techniques you see these days about aligning corporate culture often fail. But the reality is as surprising for most as it is real. As Hamilton argues, in many cases its because of:

1. No understanding of what the current culture is.

2. Unclear corporate direction — what do we stand for?

3. What does the organisation value? Profits, people, products, share price?

4. Poor communication — in both directions

And Culture change almost always needs to come from the top of the organisation: ‘your senior management doesn’t recognise the need, or doesn’t want it to happen, two things will happen:

1. Your marketing culture will continue to be completely different to your internal culture

2. Your best employees will leave and probably go to your competitors.


If there is any truth to be made in transforming from old minds to new minds, it is we cannot be experts any longer in a world that constantly changes. Truth cannot be based on ‘we need to do this and this to achieve this, and this is what we must do, passing it up to use to reflect on and pass judgement.’ This is an illusion for the simple reason that truth is temporary in a changing world.

We cannot know for long enough to have any truly meaningful impact. Neither can wet buy expertise or if we possess it, bring it to bear. Because expertise does not exist when truth is temporal. The remaining logic we have left to work with is expertise and control is an illusion.

So what are we left with if not truth to act upon?

Organisations often do not have an explicit strategy for being an engaging environment to be a part of — but this is just one aspect — the internal one — for a reality that bridges internal and external functions.

What we have left is not truth, but learning: The journey towards truth that is never attainable. Our reality is therefore our journey and not the destination that is learning. The new mind is based on aligning perception to 21st skills and mindsets.

Interestingly, IBM has a result of their own cultural identity, adopted ‘New Way To Learn’ as corporate strategy.

The new mind

Naga women from the Patkoi hills, Assam. by Collection of old photos, Flickr

If people got rid of unnecessary hierarchies and formalities, they would have a lot more fun and get a lot more done — Richard Branson

In the new mind, we can see ourselves as something else, as people with a sense of value acting openly engaging directly with their colleagues acting as one. Francois Gossieaux favors the metaphor of ‘tribe’ — he states:

‘Unless your company acts as a single tribe, which most companies don’t, you don’t have a single corporate culture. Therein lies the problem with most corporate culture initiatives — they start from the wrong premise that companies are people and that they therefore can have one culture. In reality, most companies have multiple cultures which results in having competitive behavior in the wrong place — within their corporate walls instead of outside in the marketplace.’

So instead of telling people what they HAVE to have as a list of parts, we can include, tell what it is we want to do in order to attract the right sort of mindset-based person. Here’s an example from another job description with a completely different bias than the pervious one:

Are you interested in bringing our 2020 Strategy to life by working with project management and organizational implementation?

This is asking you a question, it is asking you ‘what you are interested in?’ It is working with motivation instead of expectation.

‘If you have a business orientated mindset, and the capabilities for working with conceptual thinking, project management and a collaborative style — then we would like you to join us.’

This is telling you ‘if you think this way with these capabilities, you get to choose yourself what you do and how you do it’ and that ‘if you think this way, we do to and you become a part of our tribe’.

As long as there are more candidates than jobs, as can only increase in the future, then there will always be plenty of people more than willing to package themselves in any way any position description expects, but this is still an illusion and what it does is limit potential — for the candidate, for the execution of responsibilities and not least, for the ability of any organisation to respond to opportunity. Now it may come as a surprise to know this example of job description comes from a personal banking company.

‘We want to ensure customer centricity, communicate clearly, drive projects and design new ways of working and reporting — all of this in order for the bank to meet changing demands in the market and realize our new strategy.’

Hold on a moment — a bank wanting to design? Now they are telling us, ‘if you are conceptually oriented and open to being creative, we’d love for you to consider us as your tribe pursuing your interests.’ I’m applauding, since this is an entirely different message being communicated than the previous example.

‘We are looking for a person who thrives working with change, and who can both be a conceptual thinker and a strong project manager.’

This is illustrative of the ‘new mind’ — defining a singular tribal identity, building bridges across disciplines, in this instance ‘conceptual thinker’ with ‘project manager’ — that opens the candidacy to both:

1. Conceptual thinkers who may possess skills in project management as well as

2. Conceptually-minded project managers

This is new and vibrant, engaging to both ‘our interests’ and ‘your interests’ — an illustrative example of how the new agenda based on the new mindset is coming into play.

The vast ocean of jobs out there is the end conception of a system that is self-perpetuating, based on delusion of self. So ask yourself, which mind are you? Or rather, if you were a candidate for a job — bearing in mind that latest research actually points to drastic shortage of qualified nextGEN workforce — which place would you rather work in?

Frameworks Organisation

From IQ to CO-Q

Developing the Adaptable Learning Organisation – by Collaborative Intelligence


The abbreviation “IQ” was coined by the psychologist William Stern for the German term Intelligenzquotient for ‘scoring method’ for intelligence tests in 1912. Over one hundred years later we’re about to move the goalposts well and truly into the 21st. century. Before we talk more about intelligence, let’s consider for the moment the difference between two organisational paradigms: The ‘traditional’ and the ‘untraditional’, which for the sake of argument will build on the accepted model of the ‘Learning Organisation.’

The Traditional Organisation

Traditional hierarchies and processes can be thought of from two perspectives: As an ‘operating system’ dictating the extents that the ‘people system’ are able to operate within: People and teams operate as the foundation upon which the structure of the organization rests, managers sending corporate or organisational strategies, plans, time schedules, direction on down from the penthouse suite to the team leaders and teams on the floors below, who then implement that strategy and convert it into organizational benefit.

The problem is, the strategies being developed in the penthouse suite often fail to reflect the disruptive environment the organisation is a part of and relies on for its markets or existence. Information is kept specific to the team domain, meaning it doesn’t get shared or is able to cross-pollinate other team’s ideas and understanding keeping the organisation inflexible and unable to adapt to the changing environment.

The Learning Organisation

In the learning organisation, leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers according to Peter Senge, whose breakthrough book ‘The Fifth Discipline’ changed we already thought back in 1990. The world has changed a lot since then, but the message still remains the same: That the problem with traditional ‘operating systems’ is that these are most often implemented by management are not capable of handling the dynamic challenges of complexity, change and person to person interactions that increasingly define how we do business today. The people at the bottom traditionally go about doing what they are good at using their intelligence in the fulfillment of strategical objectives. Until recently, this is the way things are done. But not any longer.


Creative Commons Licence
CO-Q by Mark Dyson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

In the learning organisation our actions create our reality. Our reality is who we are, who we work with, how we can contribute to the success of the organisation so we have a place in its growth and development, cementing us as people in the greater context of sharing and interacting.

  • The structure is based on people, not on strategy
  • The division of information and team working is a thing of the past
  • Managers are not a barrier between us and the development of strategy

Dealing with Disruption and Change

In times of change and disruption, strategy can be or even worse, non-aligned to an appreciation of context and operating environment. Kotter introduced the idea of a new operating system continuously assesses fit for purpose, monitoring and to provide an active self-adjusting means of implementing strategy:

‘An organisation that’s facing a real threat or eyeing a new opportunity tries – and fails – to cram through some sort of major transformation using a change process worked in the past. But the old ways of setting and implementing strategy are behind us… the existing structures and processes need an additional element to address the challenges associated with complexity and change. The solution is second operating system, devoted to the design and implementation of strategy using an agile network and a very different set of processes.’ (Kotter 2012)

Advocating a network instead of hierarchies, the keypoints of the second operating system were:

  • continually assesses the business, industry, organisation
  • reacts with greater agility, speed & creativity
  • compliments the traditional hierarchy freeing resources
  • makes enterprises easier to run
  • accelerates strategic change

Creative Commons Licence
CO-Q by Mark Dyson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

What we have is a reversal of the traditional model where strategy and objectives, visions and concepts must be aligned to the eyes, ears and minds working together – adapting and adjusting to latest observations, perceptions, understandings and insights to keep on top and ahead. This is why we advocate CO-Q or Collaborative intelligence. The common denominator characterizing multi-agent, distributed systems.

In such a distributed system each agent is uniquely positioned to contribute to an evolutionary network of people interacting to produce intelligent outcomes, sharing information & reusing it so others learn and share their knowledge in turn. So what happens is the external ‘reality’ is used to foster interaction as CO-Q developing new, aligned capability that in turn can contribute to better, smarter, better aligned strategical plans and canvasses to ‘reality’ – what is going on around you: Your market, your competitors, your dna.

Multi-agent interaction

In a learning organisation based on a distributed system, we work as ‘multiple agents’ developing CO-Q collaborative intelligence. As a part of a multi-agent network, an agent is not only aligned with the current visions of the organisation employing you – but far more importantly works pro-actively to co-develop the same strategies, evolving the organisation along the way.

This means directors need to let go as close-tie teams using key players tuned in to management objectives effectively and continually assessing objective, process, organisational composition and fit-for-purpose.

Developing the adaptive learning organisation.

This means a business or organisation us able to develop an internal dynamic operatability  – working not the way they want to but working the way they need to, since the collective aspect means the test lies in fit for purpose over and above any persons individual purpose. This is the adaptive organisation actually learning, acting and working as an intelligent organism. The result is faster reaction times, increasing speed and adaptive agility – so agents and teams able to influence their organisation and organisations strategic intelligence with the capability to constantly redefine.

What we end up with is an evolutionary networks motivated by and contributing to central CO-Q drivers. These are the engines moving minds forward by interaction, aligned understanding. In CO-Q, people contribute to each other’s task as well as their own having influence on strategy and direction that is now receptive to the ‘minds in the field’: By linking people to process through CO-Q.

The success of the organisation is of course dependent on the level of understanding and knowledge of how CO-Q can be implemented. Therefore, it is paramount that tools and mindsets are developed that allows the agents, or team members to work systematically within an overall thinking-doing framework. In turn, this enables adaptive fleixble processes that change in accordance to insights and decisions that continuously define ‘the learning plans of action.’ This can only arise by close-tie intelligent team collaboration. But don’t just take my word for it:

IBM look at the same issues from the point of view of developing responsive technology. As a business on the front-end of innovation they see the problem as being one of developing key cornerstones that changes the way organisations work so they themselves are responsive and adaptive to change.

Many companies want to innovate—but not all understand the importance of collaboration to making innovation possible. Many are hobbled by old concepts of collaboration that can slow their success. People in the company may, for example, consider collaboration to be extra work. But to today’s innovative worker, collaboration is what work is all about. In the old way of thinking, employees make themselves valuable through what they know. But in the new way, people make themselves valuable by seeking opportunities to work with others and tapping into the expertise that others possess. (IBM 2008)

The Value Proposition: From IQ to CO-Q

When we boil it down to the simplest ingredients its really quite simple. The value proposition is this:

We may have the connections and may have the skills to develop dynamic interactions. What we don’t have is the understanding, the skills or the tools to implement them. In other words, no amount of know-how or technological investment will make difference without effective collaboration and intelligence sharing. And that’s why CO-Q comes into the picture.

Our message is the development and implementation of smarter and better ways of working is the key to adaptation. To adapt does not to send strategy down to the teams, but to see the entire organisation as a self- evolving hub of people, ideas and interactions where managers, team leaders and personell are equally valid according to the extent they can contribute to the collective development of knowledge and understanding.

In the old way, content is owned and protected. In the new way, content is developed through participation; it is fluid, contextual and leveraged to create opportunities through ongoing collaboration. In the old way, directories of people provide static contact information. In the new way, dynamic profiles reflect what people do, with whom and how well they do it. (IBM 2008)

Agent-to-agent evolutionary close-tie networks: A reversal of traditional management practice

This is a radical and different proposition than the one most of us have been used to and effectively challenges the traditional structures advocated by management. It means understanding and adapting: How we interact and combine to develop ideas, content and action. Smarter ways of working is the doing part and is based on thought – developing ways of thinking, thinking about doing and thinking about how people work best together. As collaboration is implemented and becomes successful, it becomes both more fluid and responsive. And this is where the thinking side of things enters into the equation.

CO-Q teams impart ‘strategic fitness’ to process, organisation and the interactions between people. The more the organisation exercises strategy skills, the more trying out feedback and iterative development is offered by the teams on the evolving strategy, what Kotter describes as ‘a hypercompetitive environment’ (Kotter 2015). IBM look at this from the aspect of transcending normal document based working connecting systems and data. As IBM points out, this too often ends up producing content for its own sake:

The people-focused style, which connects people and ideas, taps people for knowledge and insight in pursuit of an activity in which content is only one part. In the new collaboration, information is made available to a wider group of people who work together openly, quickly and more cost-effectively. Finding and connecting with subject matter experts are critical steps to the success of collaboration. (IBM 2008)

It’s all based on team performance. The more the organization exercises its strategy skills, the more adept it becomes at dealing with a hypercompetitive environment. The network and the hierarchy, functioning as dual operating systems (CA’s generating system), can produce more wealth, better products and services, and a more exciting place to work in an era of exponential change (Kotter 2012).

With new styles of collaboration in place, companies can be positioned for solid business benefits because they can harness the innovative power of shared knowledge. Companies can improve service to customers, partners and other stakeholders because they can not only communicate more readily, but they can also work together to solve common problems and meet common needs. (IBM 2008)


Kotter’s 8 Accelerators


COALITION: Build and maintain a guiding coalition

FORMULATE VISION: Formulate a strategic vision and develop change initiatives designed to capitalize on the big opportunity

COMMUNICATE VISION: Communicate the vision and the strategy to create buy-in and attract a growing ‘volunteer army’

REMOVE BARRIERS: Accelerate movement toward the vision and the opportunity by ensuring that the network removes barriers

CELEBRATE: Celebrate visible, significant short-term wins

LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE: Never let up. Keep learning from experience. Don’t declare victory to soon. (Or at all)

INSTITUTIONALIZE: Institutionalize strategic changes in the culture.


IBM 2008: The new collaboration: enabling innovation, changing the workplace.’ Online; January 2008.

Kotter 2012: Kotter, John: Accelerate – How The Most Innovative Companies Capitalize On Today’s Rapid-Fire Strategic Challenges – And Still Make Their Numbers’ . The Harvard Business Review; November 2012.