The following opinion is an extended look into “The Force Multiplier Theory.” It’s a concept I’ll introduce below, and it’s one we routinely use in helping organizations, teams, and leaders to understand the role of culture in organizational performance and effectiveness.
The overarching idea isn’t rocket science. Seemingly, whenever we share this perspective with people they always nod their heads in agreement and say, “absolutely,” or “we really need that.” Yet, as basic as the idea might seem, we still see organizations struggle with this concept and fail to invest in it, or not to its full potential.
In an earlier post, we gave a very brief account of a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s School of Business, designed to create new behaviors in a group of senior project managers in the oil and gas exploration industry. The aim was to create a new culture of ‘open-mindedness’: the ability to form more effective working relationships with the other stakeholders involved in major capital projects and an increased ability to ‘improvise’ – to react quickly and effectively to rapidly changing situations.
In 2011, a major oil and gas exploration company based in the UK set out on an extraordinary, arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, designed and led by Dr. Mark Powell, one of the authors of this article. The company’s senior project managers are responsible for multi-million-dollar exploration projects around the world and the programme was designed, not to give these senior managers enhanced skillsets or new theoretical frameworks, but to change their behaviors and mindsets — to change their culture. More specifically, the aim was to create a new culture, the key element of which could be described as ‘open-mindedness’, in two distinct forms:
I spent 15 years learning and applying culture insights as a senior executive and consultant across multiple organizations before I started to proactively reach out to top culture pioneers and experts to learn about their culture facts and fundamentals. We can’t learn much about culture from the popular press and most social media is dominated by over-simplified or incorrect culture content. Critical culture change insights from the top culture experts in history are unfortunately “secrets” to the vast majority of leaders. Other leaders turn away from the fundamentals of culture to more exotic and superficial solutions.
Leaders will often ask me what they can do to accelerate a change in their culture. As someone who likes to find ways to provide simplicity on seemingly complex and theoretical topics, I’ve long been searching for that mythical ‘one thing’ that will make the most difference. I think I’ve found it. I’ll be interested to hear if you agree with me.