The Culture Crossroads

The Culture Crossroads

What is culture?

Webster's defines it as "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."

Culture is seen (and unseen) everywhere. It abounds whether you realize it or not. We all are born into a culture—the way our parents do life. It’s that essence and traditional thinking that’s passed down from generation to generation, many times without a second thought.

To put it very simply, culture is the things that we do over and over again.

If I were to say, “Top a tha’ mornin’ to ya gov'nor!” You may immediately think I’m from Great Britain.

If I say, “Hey why don’t y’all come on over tonight for supper…” You could place me as from the southern USA. (Y’all is a contraction of you and all)

If I were to say “Spot fine,” you would immediately think Zimbabwe police.

There are phrases and ways of thinking that stem from our cultures.

All cultures have things they can work on. The Germans strive for excellence and aim to always be on time. If they say 10:32am, then they mean the train leaves at 10:32am. Rigid. They could learn flexibility from our African cultures.

We know 10:32am is not an African departure time just by looking at it! It’ll leave when it’s time to leave. We could learn some valuable lessons about precision from the Germans.

Every culture has it’s own expressions of love, generosity, compassion, and so on. But we must be careful that we don’t allow our hereditary culture to blind us of our own faults.

If your culture has no real word for future and no real word for maintain (like many southern African cultures), then we must be careful how we treat our precious infrastructure (schools, civic buildings, art, natural resources, etc.). We cannot allow our ancestors' culture to cause us to sell our nations short when other cultures are willing to come in under the guise of “progress” only to exploit the beauty, generosity, and amicability of our culture.

Every culture needs to change and grow and that only stems from being intentional to speak into one another’s lives via relationship.

Your companies can have a distinguishable culture to them. They can be crafted and honed over time to blossom and flourish. Because remember, culture is what you do over and over again.

If you consistently underperform for your clients, that’s your culture. Being intentional to uproot unwanted diseases and endemic attitudes in your culture is paramount to all forms of success in life.

Don’t let your culture stagnate. When you do, relationships fall apart, infrastructure crumbles, and all that you cling to falls into ruin. Accountability takes a nap and Excellence is off on a long hike in the mountains.

Be intentional. Hire for excellence. And create a new culture in your families, companies, and communities.


(photo via prayitno)