Written by Rob Benn
Years ago, I was employed by the government as a ‘cultural developmentconsultant’. I worked with a plethora of organizations in my region helping them to plan for their futures. Some were incredible to experience – full of happy people with happy stories, working together towards shared goals or ideals. Still others went to the opposite end of the spectrum and seemed to exude negative energy – unhappy people with lots to gripe about, sometimes harboring anarchistic desires.
I was frequently asked, “So, what’s your definition of culture?” Definitions andofferings of just what ‘culture’ is abound. It took many attempts to wrestle my mind to a practical way of describing how I thought about culture– both the positive aspects and the negative ones. After some years, I was able to come to some working definitions that are today proving invaluable in our consultation business. Culture is the glue that binds our communities, organizations, groups and families together. But there is a dual nature to culture.
First, I would liketo acknowledge the character of a negative culture. A negative culture tends to be oppressive and destructive. Members exploit and attack each other,suppressing creativity and communication. This exploitation results in negative reactions from those being exploited. These negative reactions show up as anarchistic behaviors with chaotic results. With the majority of its focus turned inward, the negative culture can't anticipate the future and is often surprised by it.
A positive culture tends to be nurturing, democratic and progressive. When a culture is in positive mode it nurtures and values the contributions of its members; as a result ideas grow and flourish. A positive culture is flexible to change and adapts to meet the needs of its members in a dynamic and constantly changing world. With the combined energy of all its members, a positive culture can actively pursue the challenges of the future.
My wife Laurie and I started Positive Culture Company in 1998. Together, we aid organizations (private and non-profit) using graphic facilitation to assist them with their strategic planning and visioning efforts as they strive to embrace a ‘positive culture’ within their organizations.
We have witnessed profound effects on group dynamics when visual language and graphic interpretation are used in the facilitation process. The experience is unifying, energetic and creative. Visual images allow people to feel connected to the process and to the people involved. It really is almost magical! Most definitely, visual language contributes to the creation of positive culture.