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Culture can’t be imposed; but it can be guided and shaped and encouraged and nurtured.
“I’ll shape the experience internally so it’s also felt outside the company.”
Biz Stone’s blog* on returning to Twitter provides a salutary lesson for all those who think they have ‘got’ company culture. Talking about the personality of the company, the energy and the feeling that comes from being a part of Twitter you get the strong impression that here is someone who really believes and understands that culture isn’t simply an internal driver but impacts every aspect of a business.
It’s easy to talk from an external point of view about culture being the DNA of the business, the way things are done. And when things go wrong it’s equally easy to point the finger at the culture, to see it as a quasi leadership entity; disembodied yet exerting a force over the actions and interactions within the organisation. Take many of the press reports into corporate scandals over recent years and in reality culture/leadership/corporate governance could be interchanged without affecting much of the meaning of the story.
But business culture isn’t leadership, although it can be affected by leaders. And it certainly isn’t governance, although good governance is generally a by-product of a strong and positive culture. And those who think the culture can be locked down within an organisation have absolutely no understanding of the impact and interaction which culture can drive between the business and its customers, suppliers, investors and other third parties.
In an absolute sense your culture is your business and your business is your culture. Selling apples is something which anyone can do; the fact that you are selling apples and the way in which you are sourcing and selling them, quality control, service, marketing and so on are all by-products of your culture.
Culture can’t be imposed; but it can be guided and shaped and encouraged and nurtured. Neglect it and it will twist and shape your destiny in a way that you may not be prepared for; nourish it and it will help your business to thrive. So when Biz Stone says that “it’s important that everyone understands the whole story of Twitter and each of our roles in that story” his words serve to highlight the truth of culture as an ongoing narrative which weaves the fabric of business success (or failure).
Take a look at the ongoing story of your business. Is it one which you are proud to write and to publicise to the world, or would you prefer to keep it locked away in a darkened room? Perhaps it’s time, more than time, that you stopped letting your story run away with you and started shaping a new and positive chapter in the life of your business.