01: Intentionally Produce Culture

Richard D. Bartlett Public Seen by 295

We'll use this thread to discuss anything about the first pattern: Intentionally Produce (Counter) Culture.


Richard D. Bartlett Tue 24 Apr 2018

Copying in David Baldwin's feedback from Patreon, just so everything is one place:

The pattern chapter "Intentionally produce (counter) culture" proceeds in this sequence: 1) establish the need for a different culture, 2) ask how you produce culture, 3) answer: no substitute for spending time together. 1,2,3, we're done. No--only then do we find out that you are not advocating the production of culture in the abstract—you are saying we need to produce a specific kind of culture: trust and belonging. The way this works, trust and belonging emerge almost incidentally as a byproduct of retreats and getting to know each other. My suggestion would be to change the sequence slightly: 1) Establish the need for a different culture—which is a culture of trust and belonging. So the last line on p. 10 becomes" You have to produce a different kind of culture—a culture of trust and belonging". You could then proceed with the Gallup results, which set up the whole discussion of engagement. THEN you could ask how you go about producing this culture, and go into the discussion of fermentation, and retreats, and getting to know each other, etc. It seems to me you are arguing for the intentional production of a very specific collaborative culture, not counterculture (which is a term with its own baggage) or culture for culture's sake, or just any kind of culture. This might or might not influence the naming of the pattern. But I don't think (counter)culture and the culture you are describing are the same thing.


Richard D. Bartlett Tue 24 Apr 2018

Thanks @davidbaldwin1, I'll take on the structural feedback.

The reason I say (counter)culture, is because I do see this as work that needs to be done against the prevailing capitalist, individualist, patriarchal, etc. culture that most of us live in. I wonder if I should make that more explicit, or if it is more straightforward to just drop the "counter".


David Baldwin Tue 24 Apr 2018

I take your point about the culture being necessarily counter to the dominant paradigm. But "counter culture" (or especially "counterculture") has been used, as it were, and for those of us who grew up through the sixties it is kind of synonymous with "subversive". And not in a good way. I think precisely because you can name the specific qualities of the dominant culture (capitalist, individualist, chauvinist, etc.), it is better to start naming names (plural) for the alternative culture. What you are describing is unique, precious, delicate, nascent, unfamiliar. I would err on the side of looking for explicit appellations that gradually become associated with the phenomenon. The people need handles.


David Baldwin Fri 27 Apr 2018

Another thought about "counter"--the language guarantees the existence of the dominant culture. There cannot be a counterculture without the culture it is counter to. And we really don't want to be expending energy "countering" such a behemoth as the dominant culture. Better to ignore the dominant as much as possible and focus on building something else. If the something else should happen to one day find itself the dominant culture, well then so be it.


Ivo Sat 5 May 2018

I've read the book and I'm looking forward to the finished version. Lot's of insights about organising condensed into one place. One thing that struck me about this chapter is that it doesn't explain a lot about how to actually intentionally create a great culture, except for: people just have to talk to each other.

I agree that trust and belonging are very important for well-functioning teams. As an engineer, I find Charles Green's Trust Equation quite intuitive for understanding how trust works. It consists of "intimacy" (which I think you're talking about in this chapter), in addition to "reliability", "credibility" and "self-orientation".

Martin Christensen's Protocol Stack might be worth having a look at as well. He explains culture as a stack of principles that build on top of each other. If you start with, for example, focusing on productivity it won't work if other lower-level elements of the culture are not yet in place.

These articles are very much oriented towards a technical audience, but might be useful for other audiences as well.