Changing a culture involves choices; what to keep, what to lose, what to grow.

Or does it?

Two helpful gurus suggest more contemplation.

Terry Pratchett was characteristically forthright:

‘If you do not know where you come from then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going.

And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.’

While Buddha….

‘If you want to know your past, look into your present condition.

If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.’

The contemplation route is little longer and a little harder.

It should be.

Changing course in a business, a career, a life, is always more nuanced than a mere traffic light exercise can describe.

And the keep / lose approach tends to play to our vanity; we can hide away parts of the story that don’t suit.

So brands with a long history are tempted to re-invent themselves by losing an important part of their story; businesses choose to forget their origins in the process of reinvention.

Successful and healthy change is steered through full awareness of all the story’s ingredients.

What those wise gurus are protecting us from as we try to change is simple.

They are saving us from denial.


N80pxtreeew cards have appeared on the tables in this cafe since I was last here.

They ask cheerily ‘How did we do?’ and offer 3 alternatives – brilliant, good, and not so good.

This sort of structured feed back request now pops up in so many areas of our lives. But is such a process really about feedback? Is it really about transparency? Does it matter?
image00When I asked around I was surprised by how often this sort of limited listing of breathlessly cheerful options can tip people into a curmudgeonly mood – even from a previously positive position.

Perhaps this feedback process, this apparently cheery sign of openness is not all that it appears to be.  One of the most common niggles in the work situation that I hear people worry out loud about is the absence, or fake-ness, of feedback from others.

If you really want a response, and want it delivered with good heart and pure intent, then eliciting those true views really is an art form.

The Electoral Commission has just persuaded David Cameron to change the wording of the EU referendum question. The new wording (which suggests an ‘in v out’, or ‘leave v remain’ choice) is thought fairer than the previous question asking for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the current situation. This is after months and months and months of debate. (And this – basically – a binary issue.)

Understand qualitative responses is just so much trickier, elusive, and uncontrollable than we would like it to be. Yet is being simplified daily.  Trying to find out what we think of issues, services, and…each other… moves from tricky to worrying, when the ‘feedback’ is ‘baked in’ to a business model.

Take Uber for example.

Two young chums were wondering about taking a cab. One checked her app and noticed there weren’t any Uber cabs near by. Yet her friend found a dozen instantly. ‘There must be something wrong with my app….” But the words trailed off as they looked at each other in mock horror. Because of course chum 1 had been, unwittingly yet effectively, blacklisted by the cab company for not being ‘nice’ enough. (Chum 2 had clearly been smiling like a good’un.).  The cab company business model involves a mutual evaluation of driver by passenger, and vice versa.
Now this poor ‘niceness credit’ rating was remedied within a short time with lashings of unctuous charm and forced good feeling. Oh, yes.

But what has really happened here? Isn’t the feedback sort of – worthless – now? It’s become a game to be played, and won.

A quote usually attributed to George Burns, a comedian, ‘Sincerity – if you can fake that you’ve got it made’  doesn’t feel quite so funny any more.

We’ve got it made.