Thingification is the enemy of culture change. It is a word I made up to describe our human compulsion to treat our organisations, institutions and societies as if they were things that can be manipulated and controlled, likely as a hangover from the machine metaphor of the industrial revolution. It results in overly optimistic plans and strategies that rely too much on logic and linear, reductionist thinking to truly deliver anything different. It seems to me the one thing that Thingification guarantees is that things won’t work out as we expected and we’ll console ourselves by blaming the methodology, process or person that came up with the plan in the first place!
A organisation, institution or society is not a thing, but a complex, responsive social process that is as predictable as it is unpredictable, as controllable as it is uncontrollable and the only way we can effect change is through participating and influencing. This means accepting that whilst some people may be in charge, they are not in control. This means accepting that the unpredictable response to our actions is more important than our actions themselves. This means gently letting go of our attachment to plans, strategies and structures and developing our ability to improvise, adapt and effect social change through conversation and human interaction.
I have worked with many organisations supporting them on a wide varity of culture change efforts. In addition to this I am visiting faculty on the Ashridge Business School and Metanoia Institute MSc programmes where I teach culture change from a socio-complexity perspective. My work over recent years has included:
- Consultancy on culture change initiatives ranging from small organisations of 10 people through to large global corporates with over 100,000 employees.
- Facilitating dialogue as a method of culture change. Most recently this has involved a 3 year project facilitating dialogue around the world focussed on gender inequalities in leadership.
- Group development with teams ranging from the board to the shop floor, working ‘live’ with group process and group dynamics.
- Consultancy on conference design to promote change and more impactful and meaningful human interaction.
- Delivering key note talks on culture change, the delusion of Thingification and how to intervene in social processes.
- Facilitating events from small team meetings through to large conferences.
- 1:1 Coaching and support