Tag Archives: holistic thinking

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.

Build Holistic Thinking Into the DNA of Your Brand For Outstanding Results

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 9.23.46 PMWhen it comes to business, too often we expect profitability to be the driver of satisfaction, and therefore of motivation.  But this isn’t actually how it works.  When we want people to be creative or to change, adapt, and innovate, profitability alone won’t motivate them to do that.  These activities require a deep commitment, and if any part of us is not engaged, we won’t make that commitment.

This is why the first tenet of Intuitive Intelligence is the ability to think holistically; in other words, the ability to focus on value that goes beyond dollars and cents to include thing like integrity, honor, and meaning.  The legendary retailer Hermès Paris is a case in point, Hermès is a luxury goods house specializing in leather, ready-to-wear apparel, lifestyle accessories, perfumery, and fashion.  Its undisputed reputation as one of the most prestigious luxury companies in the world comes from a tradition of impeccable craftsmanship and a holistic approach to business.  Established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddle shop in Paris, Hermès today has fourteen product divisions, employs seven thousand people, and owns stores all around the world.  Hermès reports a total billing of approximately two billion euros and a next profit margin of roughly 10 percent.  The is a spectacular success.  But what’s even more remarkable is that Jean-Louis Dumas, who was CEO of Hermès for twenty-eight year until 2006, always looked at Hermès in a holistic way.  His vision for Hermès was inseparable from the three core pillars that define the brand.

First, using strategic skills, he envisioned Hermès as always ahead of consumer and market trends.  Second, he called on Hermès’ creative skills to invent luxury goods of exceptional value that exceeded users’ expectations.  Third, using keen management skills, he always stressed the fact that it was equally important to make sure that all Hermès products could feasibly be manufactured according to consistently outstanding quality standards.  And fourth, emphasizing saleability, he determined that all goods produced had to be marketable, because Hermès is not about is not about objects of art for museums and galleries;  it sells consumer good for the enjoyment of customers.  This holistic approach, which was first articulated by Dumas for Hermès, has been enforced ever since because it has consistently ensured the integrity of the Hermès reputation.

Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011. 

Intuitive Intelligence Turns the Credit Card Processing Industry on Its Head

Suneera Madhani’s leadership of her game-changing credit card processing company, Fattmerchant, exemplifies three of the four tenets of Intuitive Intelligence (thinking holistically, thinking paradoxically, leading by influence), and it’s paying off in spades. She also honors the millennial generation’s need for transparency, creating 50-75% monthly growth and tremendous customer loyalty, particularly notable because they don’t have to sign long-term contracts.


The 4 Tenets of Intuitive Intelligence

Even thought this article was written quite a while ago we really like it because it describes all 4 tenets of Intuitive Intelligence: thinking holistically, thinking paradoxically, noticing the unusual, and leading by influence. Intuitive Intelligence is timeless, as is truly connecting with your customers. Sharpening your skills in each of these areas will help you balance the tension of reason with instinct and play with results throughout your organization.

Bright Ideas: The Creative Power of Groups

Using Your Whole Brain Leads to Holistic Experiences–and Better Business

brainEmbracing and utilizing all three parts of our brain can lead us to a much richer life. All of this new information will also tremendously enrich our creative life. So what does this have to do with business? As I said in The Intuitive Compass, “There is one simple truth about business that seems to be forgotten: business is both facilitated by people and meant to serve people, and people are holistic.


Jack Ma, Alibaba’s Founder and Serial Disrupter

Jack Ma, Founder, AlibabaBefore proving to the world his ability to be a serial disrupter, Jack Ma first started as an English teacher. In his own words: “innovations in many industries have been triggered by outsiders”.  Why? Simply because in most organizations, intellectual inertia prevents teams from being truly innovative. Addressing the issue, Mr Ma went even further, thinking holistically, and creating China’s own Amazon, Paypal, Groupon, DropBox, twitter, spotify & Hulu.

The Unlikely Ascent of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s Founder