Tag Archives: business

Is Culture the Culprit?

Human resources and corporate hierarchy concept - recruiter complete team by one leader person (CEO) represented by gold cube and icon.The  April 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review had an interesting article,  “Culture is not the Culprit”, by Jay W. Lorsch and Emily McTague.  They argue that these days, changing culture is seen as the cure to all business woes when instead it’s actually process and structural levers that need to be pulled, and then the change in culture follows.  We would actually argue, both from our own experience and the examples that were presented in the article, the process and structure levers that were pulled came from a different cultural mindset.  These CEOs were signaling  a culture change implicitly rather than explicitly, but it remains a culture change nonetheless.

As an example, in three of the four cases studies given in the article, Ecolab, Delta, and Novartis, the authors cite different levers that were pulled in order make the company less hierarchical.  These actions included decentralizing decision making power to other executives, to specific units, or to the front line.  We would argue that the procedural decision to disperse power comes from a fundamental change in cultural mindset:  hierarchy inhibits fluid decisions and actions in companies.  Even though the decision to act and change may have come quickly and efficiently, rather than being the result of extensive offsites, the change in mindset had to come first.  It then most likely had a ripple effect throughout the organizations and became recognized as part of the culture.

We have found in our own business and consulting, that hierarchy is a hindrance rather than a necessity, and when it can be partially removed or tempered, companies can succeed beyond expectations.  What’s more, by removing the hierarchical structure we create a refreshing opening whereby energy is naturally generated.  Whereas hierarchy and the traditional corporate structure are really about control, open power structures foster a culture in which people’s autonomy is encouraged and supported.  When employees are offered more autonomy, they naturally function at a much higher level with less supervision.  This is really the future, because it creates an atmosphere in which people are more likely to take risks and come up with solutions—an atmosphere suited to creativity.

We’ve used the Intuitive Compass® to create a Corporate Culture Questionnaire that is suitable for both CEOs trying to get a clearer understanding of how their company culture supports performance and for people in the process of looking for a new job who want to evaluate how well they would fit within the corporate culture of a particular company.  (For those of you that need a primer on the Intuitive Compass, please click here.)

After you have assigned a score of 1 to 5 to each question (1 being the minimum and 5 the maximum), total the score of each quadrant, then divide by 5 for the average score for each quadrant.


Northeast Quadrant Questions:

  • How clear are the processes that are in place to administer business?
  • How efficient are these processes?
  • How well organized is the business?
  • How methodical is business management?
  • How rationally and logically is business managed?


Southeast Quadrant Questions:

  • How highly would you rate your team commitment to achieving results?
  • How highly would you rate the efficiency of your company’s performance evaluation systems?
  • How frequently is performance reviewed and analyzed?
  • How robust are your company’s performance incentive programs?
  • How well defined are your company’s parameters and criteria for the measurement of success?


Northwest Quadrant Questions:

  • How much emphasis is put on strategic thinking?
  • How highly would you evaluate the openness of the culture to new ideas and influences from employees?
  • How highly would you evaluate the openness of the culture to new ideas and influences from outside the company?
  • How easily does the company tolerate questioning of the status quo and embrace paradox?
  • How effectively does the corporate culture encourage play?


Southwest Quadrant Questions:

  • How well does the corporate culture support risk-taking?
  • How well does the corporate culture tolerate the chaos of the creative process?
  • How well does the corporate culture encourage passionate individuals?
  • How much of the corporate culture is based on vibrant values and a strong sense of purpose?
  • How often do meaningful rituals and symbols play an important role in the corporate culture?


For those of you who have our book, The Intuitive Compass, you can turn to page 171 to decode your results.  For those of you who don’t, we will publish how to decode them next week.

How and Why to Apply Gut Feelings to Business

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.46.41 PMI know we promised you an decoding of your intuitive compass, and with our greatest apologies, it will come next week.

In the meantime…

Because our instinct is responsible for our survival, it actually makes complete sense for it to be heavily involved in sophisticated decisions. It has been doing that job for thousands of years. So it follows that, in important matters that will affect our lives, our instinct should be the first and foremost judge of whether or not a decision is good. A study conducted by neuroscientists at Princeton University confirms this fact. The aim of the study was to demonstrate how a gut feeling may rise before a person becomes conscious of what the brain has registered. In the study, students were directed to pick out figures—people or cars—in a series of photos that flashed by on a computer screen. The pictures flashed by four at a time, and the participants were told to scan only two of them, either those above and below the center point, or those to the left and right. Eye tracking confirmed that they did just that. But brain scans showed that the students’ brains registered the presence of people or cars even when the figures appeared in photos that they were not paying attention to. The brain tallies cues, big and small, consciously and not, it may send out an alarm before a person fully understands why.

A gut feeling is often the result of some part of our brain taking in and processing information that we are not conscious of having taken in and processed. This study demonstrates how we sometimes are not consciously aware of all of the information that we in fact have already registered at some level—in this case visually.

When a gut feeling arises before a person becomes conscious of it, it can enrich their ability to make a decision. Not only that, but sometimes logical problem solving is simply not the best option. Sometimes the best way to come up with an appropriate answer to a logical problem is to base it on a gut feeling. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, a psychologist who has studied the limits of rational thinking in decision making explains that, contrary to popular wisdom, sometimes there is no optimal strategy attainable to solve a problem. He gives the example of a presidential candidate who has to plan a fifty-city tour. The candidate would like to start and end in the same city and obviously cover the shortest distance. The candidate would like to start and end in the same city and obviously cover the shortest distance. There are so many possible itineraries that not even the fastest computer can optimize the candidate’s choice in a lifetime, a century, or even a millennium.

When optimization is out of reach we must rely on our gut feelings instead of logical deduction. And this applies to any situation in which rules are not completely explicit, uncertainty is prevalent, or rule breaking is an option. This obviously pertains to winning a negotiation, leading an organization, marketing a new product, investing in the stock market, or training executives. Of course, for every one of these endeavors good enough strategies exist, but for us to find and choose these valid strategies we need to resort to what Gigerenzer calls a “rule of thumb,” which he defines as the product of a mental process that tries to identify the most important information and ignore the rest, taking advantage of an evolved capacity of the brain to do so. For Gigerenzer, expert of the intelligence of the unconscious, “it would be erroneous to assume to intelligence is necessarily conscious and deliberate.” He adds, “We know more than we can tell.”

Excerpted from Francis Cholle’s The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass

It Is Not the Business of Business to Solve Society’s Problems, but Business Itself is Now Viewed as the Problem

In today’s environment where voters demand politicians rein in finance and corporations some businesses are trying to reinforce the consensus that they can be viewed as an engine of progress and a source of optimism. However corporate behaviors will not radically change without investors and customers asking for more long-term thinking and higher ethical standards.

Capitalism thrives by looking past the bottom line