If we want to consider how the future will unfold then we first need to consider the concept of culture. We need to ask: “What sort of society, or culture, do we want to see take us into our future?”
The official definition of the word culture is: “The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.”
Culture has become a significant focus for organisations
This fact alone is an overwhelmingly positive sign for society as it shows organisations are now taking their people as seriously as they do profit. Many organisations have created ‘People & Culture’ divisions to deliver a more respectful, supportive and ultimately productive place of work. The goal is for people to feel empowered, supported and able to achieve their highest potential whether working alone or collaborating in teams. I work in this field, and it is inspiring to see the focus of managers and company boards shifting to include people as well as profit (as of course, it is the people working for an organisation who create the profit).
Culture is central to the theme in the recent hit movie, Don’t Look Up, a satire with a star-studded cast. It pushes into the spotlight how culture within organisations, government and society can directly affect our future. By satirising everything from government leaders to mass media and the public, Don’t Look Up makes us look at ourselves and how we would respond to a life-threatening super comet hurtling directly towards earth – and in doing so also demonstrates a fascinating storyline about culture. I’ll come back to this later, but first let’s look at how we as individuals can influence the future.
We each have the potential to create society.
Organisations today foster common ‘feel-good’ values to help us, as employees, engage in common goals. This idea is for us to feel part of the company and that individuals each play a vital part in contributing to the greater whole. When done successfully, this makes us feel empowered as we come to work every day in the knowledge that we are part of a team with common values. (Hopefully the leadership teams model these values too, otherwise a positive working culture is unsustainable.)
In contrast, sometimes in society we wait for guidance from the ‘powers that be’ as we do within a workplace. We forget that we have the power to choose how we behave, what we believe, and follow the common values we can admire. Instead we often accept what we are told as the norm and let it influence our thinking and behaviours. Yet if we are to move closer to a purposeful, value-driven culture, we must be the ones to create it. We as human beings have the innate skills to achieve this not just in the workplace but as individuals in society, defining our society and our culture.
Groups of people find it important to have common values and beliefs to serve the greater good.
Innate human values of love, kindness, goodness, courage, honesty, and respect are upheld by many traditional cultures. These have now been adopted by organisations as the key ingredients that provide for better work environments. Yet all too often, our role models in politics and in the media demonstrate the kind of values and beliefs parodied in the movie Don’t Look Up.
The parody is inspired by the concept of ‘Behavioural Insights’ now used by governments to create policies designed to nudge us into certain behaviours that our leaders believe will serve the greater good of society and culture in general. I believe however the motivation here is to create an atmosphere of fear instead of love and compassion. There are messages that seem to be saying to us that ‘if you don’t embrace this message/idea, you aren’t caring and respecting others’. This nudging can be coercive. It can make us feel guilty if we don’t follow what the message says. We can only hope the designers of such policies have good intentions and believe they are working in our best interests.
Repetitive images and messages in media embed values and beliefs in us that create common culture – and they then become ‘the norm’.
The ‘modern human’ often comes to view the media and public figures as authorities, whether they realise it or not. Arguments are often presented as facts, so we believe them. While positive initiatives are occurring, so too are coercive approaches that form a culture in which the likes of corporations and social media influencers do precisely what the designer wishes and therefore achieves their desired outcome.
Back in my early days, as a corporate trainer I became a practitioner and master trainer in neuro linguistic programming (NLP), a set of models that allow someone to create cognitive behavioural change and build more resourceful states to achieve their goals.
While most NLP models produced positive outcomes for others, there was one of which I was wary. This was the model specifically designed to influence others. I did not and still do not want to use this specific technique on people. Instead, I endeavour to empower participants and let them know the tools I am using so they too can learn ways to get powerful results in their own career and life. Most of all, I have been passionate in conveying what I feel is the importance of culture and also the ingredients that create it. As it is these ingredients which I feel hold all the power.
The saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. I say with great power comes the need for good values in order to wield it properly.
So let’s get back to the word culture. We have a rich array of civilisations and multi-cultural diversity throughout the world, developed over thousands of years. As each country evolved in isolation, societies developed unique language, dance, art and ways of being – a culture. It is these cultural differences that make international travel nowadays so appealing. These differences stimulate, inspire and even shock us out of the comfort zones of our so-called ’normal’ cultures.
There is a fine line in creating a controlling culture and creating a free culture for people to express their diversity.
The key to walking this fine line is within each of us. We can choose to embrace the former or the latter. Most people who listen to messages from media and social influencers are unaware that fear-based messages are commonly used to call us to action (FOMO or fear of missing out included).
We can instead be inspired by our innate ‘humane’ values and most importantly nature.
Nature inspires us to remember. Nature has lasted the test of time. Natures’ perpetual system inspires an intuitive, instinctual existence where we flow with what we have around us. When we tap into this, we are better able to choose what really works for us. We just know what gives us wellbeing, when we need to be kinder and when we are off track. We have this gauge within us. Nature and exposing ourselves to nature by spending more time within natural settings – by taking a bush-walk for example – gives us greater feelings of wellbeing and a chance once more to listen within.
We feel connected. We feel human again.
My childhood as a rural kiwi kid gave me hours and hours in nature. I know the courage I have and respect for everything around me came from those moments. I like to bring that essence of my childhood into the work I do and, hopefully, draw that out again in adults who have forgotten how much nature shaped them too.
When we listen to others, are surrounded by noise and ‘not so natural’ influences, it is easy to stop listening to this inner knowing. We can often give our decision-making over to others. A culture that is controlling can make us feel like we need to give up on our own instincts and intuition as they simply do not fall within the ‘norm’. Yet when you watch the movie Don’t Look Up, you will see the ridiculousness of doing this come into play as the general public follows ‘the norm’. People fall into line with what authority figures and media tell them to do and how to be. The public effectively gives its power to the authorities who then use it to create chaos and a shocking doomsday scenario.
Do we want to be nudged towards a monoculture and give our decision-making abilities over to others – or do we want to make humane and intuitive choices?
Recently I heard the idea that we can be human… or unhuman.
We have embraced technology yet are we becoming machines? We have power within yet are we trusting someone ‘out there’ to guide us, even as mature adults? Do we listen within to our true human nature or give that power away?
We have a choice.
Listen within. There is an answer there.
Organisations are trying to create more humane cultures and encourage people to reach their highest potential (and therefore productivity). This happens when we enjoy who and where we are. I love working in dynamic workplaces – it feels like my tribe! We inspire people to be comfortable in their own skin – as each person provides a diverse strength that compliments the group. We encourage developing the silent space within – the place where people realise their own unique power and wisdom.
Not all workplaces are like this! Yet I have experienced it. (Some workplaces even feel more functional than the alternative ecovillages I have worked in over the years. Another topic for another LinkedIn post to come!)
So how are we going with the societal and cultural choices we are making? When we understand the power of culture, we become empowered to shape the future.
But who is going to create the future? Is it me, you or who?
If we trust in our true human selves, we will create a positive future and culture – or society – in which our children and future generations get to live.
We can become unhuman like the movie or choose a more ‘natural human design’ using our inner intuition. Unhuman tendencies deny reality through pandering to ridiculous ‘truths’ and behaviour. A better outcome can result from returning to our true human nature –encouraging values of love, kindness, goodness, courage, honesty, and respect. It is a choice.
“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck” – Rumi, Sufi Mystic Poet, 12th Century
Sometimes becoming open to independent research gives a stark reality of why we don’t want to follow others. Forbes has an article where the author Laurence Kotlikoff co-authored with Mark Skidmore, a Professor of Economics at Michigan State University share findings that states:
“$21 trillion in unaccounted government transactions, primarily on defence is… missing.” This is the state of the US Government. Do we want to follow this ‘culture’ or society?
Do we want to follow others who are creating a culture or society that isn’t what we want for our children or future?
Asking this question is a way to check whether we are connected to following others or our own inner power.
Get out in nature more – there is a rhythm of perpetual grace and true sustainable culture that lasts the ages.
Nature can re-inspire and reconnect us again to our own design of our life and work. Take a walk and feel the brewing of inner choice. Insights will flow that feel more like they have come from the natural self. It’s worth making the decisions that feel right as it serves you and serves our future to do so. Natural Human Design is about being strategic with our own life and the influence it can have. Each person can make a difference.
Don’t look up. Instead let go and look forward to creating the future culture of your choice.
Nature offers a ‘perpetual creative design’ from which we can learn. Nature is self-balancing. Its basis is wellbeing and abundance. Nature inspires love and connection vs fear or scarcity. There is much we can reconnect with when we observe and immerse ourselves back into nature. Recent studies showed people are spending only 1% to 5% of our time outside in nature per day. No wonder we are feeling disconnected to our own true nature.
Take today and choose your own Natural Human Design. Together we can look optimistically towards a future that feels good.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself” – Rumi, Sufi Mystic Poet, 12th Century
About the Author:
Kirsten McLauchlan is a Human Potential specialist in large organisations and founder of The Intuit Institute as well as Natural Human Design (NHD) a methodology that extends Human Centred Design (HCD) to the next level.