Culture. This word gets thrown around quite a bit in business. Yet culture is poorly understood by organizations large and small. We were excited to attend Grant McCracken’s Culture Camp at the New School. McCracken is an anthropologist and author known for his books about culture as well as his consultancy for large organizations like Netflix, Google, and Amazon. McCracken offered attendees his thoughts on roadblocks and challenges to understanding culture today, some areas of opportunity, and why people should care.
McCracken engaged the event attendees in a conversation about why culture is so misunderstood. Too many businesses don’t recognize the role of social good in profitability. They view values and profit as things they have to decide between, as opposed to working hand-in-hand. Culture is viewed as an “add”—a superfluous item in the budget that might be nice to have, but whose true value is unknown.
With challenge comes opportunity, and there is a big opportunity to reframe the way organizations and c-suites view culture. Instead of thinking of it as an “add”, culture needs to be reframed as a strategic opportunity. It should be viewed as a strategic foundation for the advancement of the organization.
We believe this wholeheartedly at PLASTARC. We account for culture in every observation and study we perform, and every business recommendation that we make. We believe that we cannot fully understand the needs and functions of an organization without first understanding its culture, and have noticed that many corporations are starting to understand this too.
McCracken explained that the things that make culture misunderstood also make it important. Where many C-suite misunderstand culture as having no value or profit, McCracken believes culture enables us to capture value, profit, share, voice and advantage. He said, “It is the place to look for blue oceans of opportunity and black swans of disruption.” It gives structure to discover and understand things through meaning, rules and motions. As the world gets steadily more and more complicated, culture helps to redesign all social things to adapt and make sense of it all. As McCracken explained, “It makes the world clearer.”