A cultural divertissement

Ellie Romer-Lee

A cultural divertissement

A few months ago, one of my colleagues at Onfido led a mind-bending lunch & learn on the relativity of time. He took us through three stories on the topic, which he termed ‘divertissements’. As the language implies, they were little stand-alone nuggets (like the stand-alone performances termed ‘divertissements’ and performed in the interludes of ballets or operas), and it was left to us to connect them up, if we wanted to.

I’ve spent the day at a culture hackathon hosted by Culturevist. The name is a shortening of ‘company culture activist’ and, having spent the day in the presence of some passionate and enormously knowledgeable people, I have all sorts of culture-related nuggets to now share. As mentioned, I imply no particular narrative or agenda in so doing, but hope that this post might at least serve as fuel to some interesting conversations!

The Pro-Social Effects of Gratitude

A few months ago, Putney Bridge was always blocked. 2pm or 2am, it was rammed with traffic and largely impassable.

After varied and multiple attempts at solving this problem, an organisational psychologist was brought in to do a piece of analysis. He diagnosed two things:

  1. Human beings are hard-wired to find ways to game systems and processes. The one-way system on Putney Bridge was so tightly controlled it was actually encouraging people to take strange routes round, all of which were antithetical to the easy flow of traffic.

  2. Every time somebody was permitted by another driver to enter the bridge from a side-artery, they were thanked. This led to both drivers feeling good, and continuing this apparently socially beneficial behaviour. This made the traffic problem even worse.

What is fascinating about this is that it suggests gratitude drives socially harmonious and cohesive behaviours. Even better, this observation is congruent with much psychological research on the topic.

In the workplace, what this means is that a culture that facilitates gratitude will reap the benefits of other social behaviours. It makes us feel good to thank one another, and it makes us feel good to be thanked.

That is one potentially very powerful force for good!

The Triple Bottom Line

Companies used to be managed for profit, and for profit alone.

Via various forks in the road, companies are now called to manage the competing demands of three bottom lines: profit, people & planet.

Many have struggled with what they see as antithetical demands - but they don’t have to be. In one argument, an organisation that cares for its people does the other two by default. It motivates, inspires and frees up passionate and engaged people to care for planet and profit, without having to do a great deal of command and control organisation to make that happen.

Mapping Influencers

A perennial problem for culture activists everywhere: how do you get a read on the temperature of your organisation? And, if you want to roll something out (be it message, call to action or anything else), what’s the best way to do it?

How about mapping your influencers?

Ask each of your team to name one peer, one senior & one junior (if those labels are at all helpful - if not, scrap them) to whom they regularly turn to for advice; with whom they would bounce ideas around & to whom they’d admit difficulty or failure.

Use that data to understand how your organisation is wired. Who is connected to whom? Which individual or individuals form bridges or nexus points between otherwise disparate groups? Is influence reciprocal or not?

Once we know these things, communication in all directions will surely be a great deal easier to facilitate.



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Life at Onfido
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