I sat in a meeting last October, where quite simply put, there was a huge elephant in the room; an insolvent culture. The leader, who had previously pushed such topics, along with wellbeing, equality and care, under the carpet, had now decided that, in light of some insipid outcomes on all fronts, it was time to check a 'culture' box. One of his several puppets infamously quoted a famous quote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and again expecting different results". At the time I cringed; my previous three years of hard work, toil and often heartbreak; continually battling with ostracism and dealing with my own moral courage had gone into this philosophy. I preached change, "it's hard but we all have to do it eventually…" I announced, to which many had critically denounced it, saying "there's nothing wrong with the culture" or "it's not your place…". Things since this meeting last October, unfortunately, have spiralled, almost uncontrollably, to the depths of the lowest point the entire institute has been.
Shortly after that meeting, masking strategies were put in place, of course, I watched cynically, my better judgment and personal mantra disagreeing with wholeheartedly.
And since, now being the middle of the following year, giving ample time to assess the impact of that "meeting to end all meetings on culture"? Well, let's just say, in the words of the great Albert Einstein, "May we all bathe in the insanity in which we all created…"
A short and sweet one today, leaving a little food for thought.
Many words have connotations; positive and negative, but none are blurred as to which connotation sits best for the word culture more. I guess there's confusion around this as those who seek culture for a betterment and end up seeking an abrupt exit from a dire environment, filled with negativity.
Culture; something I feel I aimlessly sought, has many facets to uphold positive progression yet probably the most effective strategy to obtain belief in a system that later brings about endless supplies of euphoric affirmation is the establishment of routine.
Many who set out to establish great culture most probably have great intentions but those who seek without effect fall victim to instilling repetition. Negative repetition, based on the ideas of few, or God forbid, one will lend itself to one thing and one thing only, egotism. Sure, ideas and implementation must all come from one but when dealing with many and that one deals singlehandedly with all, the path to success starts to crack. So, if leading this journey, be strong, set routines, establish standards (and bloody high ones at that) and stick to them, for the sake of all. If your standard fits many, make them fit all. No exceptions.
Culture is about precedents. Good and bad, they form the basis of what is required to achieve one's goals, in all walks of life. When something great happens, that "wow, that was unexpected…" take the time to sit back and celebrate it. Spend time giving pats on the back and words of affirmation because before you know it, the time to hand the bitter pill of failure will come. This is certainly an easier one to swallow having seen the high commendations for what is expected. If the failure comes first, then don't hold back, make it a precedent, and stay strong. Instill the message we learn from mistakes and then it's about the response. Always follow up the response with everyone within the culture's inner sanctum. Have them see that making mistakes is part of learning and that has allowed even further progression, that the mistake entitled one monumental precedent so it will not occur, with anyone again. If it does, there's a precedent. People hide from setting precedents and this alone may derail your desire to establish a routine driven culture of success.
There is no one way to establish good cultures but without the people at the top, making tough yet necessary decisions, they do not occur. Without the input, buy-in and a sense of value below, the culture is doomed from the outset. As a natural leader, I set about creating goodness in every way possible but by far and away the most important thing I do, as quickly as possible, I set good habits. Good routines. Repetition is nice for the continuity of a collective but is it really the basis of good culture? Set up a routine and you move forward, set up repetition and, despite at times feeling as though you are moving forward, you hit a corner and head straight back around in the opposite direction.
You know that feeling you get when everyone is following an action, fad or trend and you literally want to vomit? You know it will pass but you start to wonder why there is always these relentless trends amplifying negativity. Why won't those who bring about positivity in the world, even in the smallest of ways, catch a break? If only everyone would put as much energy into something good, worthwhile and which may actually make a real difference in the world, maybe then, the world would reek of magic!
Well, I have a message for all of you who continue to shine brightly without thinking you have made an imprint. For those who feel the energy-sapping goodness is running dry. I want you to think about the real reason you shed virtuousness on others, and finally, to never stop spreading your radiance. It's called…
"The 100th Monkey"
"Bang!" A long time ago, government forces were testing atom bombs in the sea. It was seen to be the best place to drop huge devastation as it was only near uninhabited islands which would not affect human life if invaded with radiation.
Because the politicians were so kind, they decided to re-settle the island near the testing site with monkeys. Not just a few, but about ten thousand. There was a freshwater source in the middle of the island and the monkeys could enjoy the delicious coconuts, which were aplenty on this island. Interestingly enough, scientists made daily trips to test the environment and to observe how the monkey colony was settling in. One thing concluded from their visits; the coconuts were extremely hard to eat as the rusks were radioactive. This could derail the entire re-settlement, taking down an excellent goodwill gesture in the process. Solution: teach some monkeys how to wash the coconuts thoroughly prior to devouring them. This was an arduous task and took over a month to establish the washing routine with just a small, nine monkey sample. The mission was a difficult one, re-settling an intoxicating environment but the government; scientists and environmentalist were resilient, it had to be done.
After six weeks, there was something peculiar in the science reports from the previous month and a half. Nine monkeys were rigorously cleansing the coconuts of radioactive remanence, making it easier for consuming and overall survival of the colony. The original nine trained cleaners turned into thirteen. It was a celebration; the mission was possibly going to work. Ten thousand strong, with many female nurturing babies, the colony needed this routine to survive, so having caught on, those extra four monkeys would now hold the key to clean coconut rusks and the survival of the island primates. The scientist made trips monthly for the next few months, what they found was amazing. On their returns they found nineteen monkeys cleaning, followed by thirty-four, fifty-seven, seventy-four and ninety-one. Then one-hundred, two days in a row. As incredible a breakthrough this was, showing that if one hundred monkeys can conform to this ritual and despite only one percent of the primate population having started the regime of cleaning for survival, it proved to the scientists that, perhaps in time, the monkeys would all be doing this life saving, revolutionary task.
It was decided to fund a venture to the island for a team of specialist researchers and animal conservationists over a twelve-month period. The team would rotate fortnightly and hence, give 24/7 access to the monkeys and their inspiring development. But after a staggering one week on the island, something truly mind-blowing occurred.
The team of scientists sent out search parties to different parts of the fresh water source on an overcast day. This day was to have the most amazing silver lined clouds for what they were to witness was truly unbelievable.
Although the time was stringently toilsome, often grueling, the scientists feasted their eyes on one special gathering. Ten thousand monkeys, as if in ritual, washing their rusks readying themselves for consummation. Over the next week, the same thing had happened, time and time again.
With what was a hunch originally, a distant "maybe", the looming survival strategy for this colony had worked tremendously. Each day, the primates would make their way to the fresh water and wash, it was now habitual.
Even if you think your positivity is making a limited impact, you must persevere, for one day, when you least expect it, the sun will shine upon you and the masses will worship your glory. Make good habits and in time your legacy will reign over all.