Photography, Perspective and Corporate Culture

Photography has come a long way since I got my first camera in the 1960’s. It was a Leica SLR with a normal lens and a telephoto, which I took with me to Beirut, Lebanon during my Junior year of college as an exchange student. I took hundreds of pictures, most of which didn’t come out that well, but I still had to develop the film and print contact sheets to find the good ones. At that time there was no fish eye lens or panoramic shooting and setting the exposure and focus were mostly manual activities. And it was heavy. And I certainly couldn’t take it under water on my diving trips without extra housing protection. But at that time it was the best way for me to record the world around me and bring it home so others could hopefully understand my life-changing experience in Lebanon

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Nowadays, photography has been revolutionized, first by digital and then by the iPhone. With an iPhone 7s a person can take hundreds of photos, see the results instantly on the screen, discard the bad ones, send them around the world to friends via Messenger or email, and even colour correct them. All within the same small, compact, light smartphone. And there is even an ability to take panorama shots and video with the iPhone. Some creative types are shooting movies with just an iPhone. Plus it has an internal zoom capability. And there are inexpensive clip on lenses for real telephoto picture-taking. Best of all, I can shoot underwater!

Comparing my old printed photographs with these new digital pictures gives one an entirely different perspective of the world. You can see more, capture more, save more and share more of the world around you. And as a result, perhaps even better understand the world and your surroundings.

And remember those first photographs of earth from space? In December 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 took the first ‘Blue Marble’ image of the entire planet Earth and we gained a new perspective about the fragility of the planet we all live on. Our planet is one big closed system and changes in one part can have a profound impact on other parts.

A New Perspective on Corporate Culture

In my recent book, CULTURE RULES! The 10 Core Principles of Corporate Culture, I look at corporate culture from a different, wide-angle, all encompassing perspective, using new tools to really understand what shapes, drives, and sustains the habitual work behaviors and attitudes that most people think of as corporate culture. Just thinking of corporate culture as behaviors is like trying to photograph a broad landscape through a straw! You only see a narrow aspect of the entire scene. Behaviors are only one part of corporate culture, the output, or results of what I term, the “corporate culture business system”.

The system is the culture.

By taking on the perspective and understanding that corporate culture is really a business system and an end-to-end value chain, not only can we see the outputs (=behaviors), but also the inputs and drivers that interact within that system to create your specific and unique corporate culture. All cultures have similar drivers, but how they are woven together, their relative strengths, and how they interact means that each company has a different corporate culture, unique to it.

While two companies may be described as having a culture of poor teamwork, there is not enough information in this assessment for management to either reshape or change that set of behaviours. But if we look at all the internal drivers, such as compensation, hiring practices, shared objectives, budgeting processes, reward systems and the focus of top management, it is now much easier to understand why there is poor teamwork, but more importantly, what drives those behaviours. And now we know the levers that need to be changed in order to produce a different set of behavioral outcomes.

Change the system, change the culture.

What are some of these “culture drivers” within the corporate culture business system? Here are some of the key drivers of corporate culture and their relative impact on building and sustaining a company culture. And you might be surprised by the relative strengths and which elements are the stronger drivers of culture.

Learn More About Your Corporate Culture

If you want to better understand your own corporate culture, and find the important levers for change, take a look at CULTURE RULES!, now available on Amazon in paperback and eBook format.

This wonderful book will transform our understanding of corporate culture. Seeing culture as a business system, and the 10 Core Principles that govern culture, can help leaders at all levels develop a high-performance organization. Finally, an approach to corporate culture that makes a compelling business case!
~ Stephen M. R. Covey, New York Times bestselling author of The Speed of Trust.

John R. Childress

Chairman at CulturSys, Inc.:

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress