How Hard Powers and Soft Powers defines companies

A brief analysis of the elements and powers that influence company’s culture

Introduction

Last week I attended to IAM Weekend in Barcelona. There I had the opportunity to listen to Jonathan McClory (among others), a digital diplomacy specialist. At his lecture, I got introduced to a new concept for me: Hard and Soft Powers.

Jonathan explained that two forces influence and change countries; hard and soft powers. Hard Powers are the “hardcore” influences like military, law, sanctions and economy. Soft Powers are the most persuasive ones like cultural promotion, diplomacy and global contribution.

After a few days have passed, I asked myself this question; what are the Hard Powers and Soft Powers that influence companies and organisations?

Hard Power & Soft Power in organisations

Following the model I saw at Jonathan’s presentation, I sketched some ideas and listed the following factors for Hard Power and Soft Power that influences institutions.

Hard Powers

- Rules & regulations: From working times to salaries and vacation policies. All these rules are written down and strictly followed.

- Structure: The way the company distributes power and responsibilities. From roles to titles and promotion process.

- Top hierarchy: How people in authority use their position to influence decisions and behave with co-workers.

Soft Powers

- Culture: Mainly defined by the vibe and individuals who compose the organisation.

- Values: List of the company’s belief, the ones dictated by the corporation’s vision.

- Space: The office or physical space where the workers are.

All these elements have the power (in a harder or softer ways) to change your company’s future, culture and productivity.

Alignment

The tricky part about these influences is that they might not be aligned. Here are some examples:

When Hard Powers tend to add pressure and Soft Powers tend to add enjoyment

If a company has strict rules and structures, with a highly authoritarian top hierarchy, but the workers’ culture is pushing for an open and relaxed working environment, it will probably end in a clash, frustration and talent loss.

When Hard Powers tend to facilitate team culture and Soft Powers tend to facilitate individualism

If a company changes its structure to promote flat roles but the space is designed for highly individualistic work, it will probably end in confusion, frustration and bad outcomes.

Conclusions

Because of its nature, we can define Hard Powers as rigid and Soft Powers as liquid. As a company manager, it is critical to observe how aligned these two influences are in your organisation, and how Soft Power can change with time.

In a modern and smart company, managers will have the ability to take notes of wherever the Soft Powers are pointing and analyse how Hard Powers might need to evolve/respond.

At what direction are these influences pointing in your organisation? How do they relate to each other?


I’m a creative consultant focused on strategy, futures and creative process. I help brands and organisations with cultural and digital transformation. If you have comments or want to reach out, you can tweet me, message me on FB Messenger or send me an old-fashioned email.