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When we look at a company we only see the outward signs; the products, the publications, the people. But underpinning every organisation there is an invisible culture which governs beliefs and behaviours, ethos and attitudes.
From concept cars to new tele-visual experiences via a host of ‘smart’ gadgets and business tech, CES 2015 was as exciting and innovative as ever. Record numbers of attendees gathered to showcase innovative new products, to buy or simply to view current trends in cutting-edge technological developments. As CES CEO Gary Shapiro said “It’s been incredible to see thought leaders from many diverse communities come together for cross industry collaboration.”
One of the interesting trends on view at CES 2015 was the move towards ‘invisible’ tech. Fitness trackers which are worn under clothing are already a part of many mainstream sports but for the more casual sportsperson the demand is for a tracker which is as fashionable as it is functional. So smart watches, and smart bracelets are being developed which look like jewellery first and sensors second. Tech is also being integrated into clothing with ‘smart shirts’ on offer which integrate sensors into the material of the garment and ‘smart soles’ which buzz in reaction to a range of stimuli.
If this trend continues it won’t be long before we will be able to go about our daily lives outwardly unchanged but with a host of invisible sensors and technological devices monitoring our health and managing our communications and interactions with the wider world. To the casual observer we may be simply walking down the street but the pace of our walk, where we are going, the interactions we have along the way may be affected by the signals which are receiving from invisible ‘smart’ devices.
In a way the effects of invisible smart tech are somewhat similar to the effects of organisational culture. When we look at a company we only see the outward signs; the products, the publications, the people. But underpinning every organisation there is an invisible culture which governs beliefs and behaviours, ethos and attitudes. The organisation may publish a ‘customer first’ or ‘innovation’ culture on its website but it is the signals which are transmitted across the office on a daily basis which will govern whether the words are matched by actions.
Admittedly sometimes the signals are very obvious. Go into some offices and when you are faced with unsmiling employees trudging around in a welter of dirty coffee cups and seemingly becoming head down immersed in work when the boss enters the room then it doesn’t take a smart observer to notice that there is something very wrong with the culture. But at other times the clues are less obvious. There might be a slight increase in absenteeism, it may be taking a bit longer to complete projects or comments on social media may not be quite as glowing as they were in the past. From an outward perspective, customers may start to notice service levels dipping or products which are not quite as robust as they were before.
Whatever the signs, the underlying cause is generally a blip in the invisible culture which runs through an organisation. And when the culture goes awry it takes a concerted effort to bring it back on track. Regular monitoring of the culture and of levels of employee engagement and customer alignment can help to alert managers to potential trouble spots and therefore to take swift remedial action; but that monitoring has to be continuous and appropriate and wherever possible run in the background without continually disrupting the working day. Invisible and unobtrusive monitoring of the invisible culture which helps to keep the organisation healthy and on track; now that’s an ambition for all organisations in 2015.