Corporate Culture is a hologram . . .

Things are only impossible until they’re not.  -Captain Picard,  ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

One of my favorite shows is Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Now I did watch the original Star Trek with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and McCoy almost religiously and loved every episode.  But it went off the air and I went to college and it was 18 years before a new version hit television.  Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes were less macho and portrayed leadership as more (dare I say) “sensitive”, more collegial and less “all knowing”.  Captain Picard was the modern leader.

But what really hooked me on the new series was the “holodeck”; a large room on the Starship Enterprise where the computer could create any reality as a hologram environment such that the crew could live out their fantasies.  They could have the computer create a program to simulate the wild west of the early 19th Century and pretend to be small town Marshalls and outlaws, or create the illusion of sailing on a pirate ship.  Great fun.

Now the concept of a hologram is pretty interesting.  I can’t fathom the math or the physics, but one way to describe a hologram is to compare it to a photograph.  If you take a photograph and cut it in half you get a left piece and a right piece, which when put together make the picture whole.  Cutting the photograph into 4 pieces would give you four different parts of the original photo.

Now a hologram is a different kind of picture.  If you (could) cut a holographic picture in half each half would contain the entire original picture.  Cutting it into quarters would give four complete original pictures, only smaller.  And so on.  You could cut the hologram into a hundred pieces and each piece would be a complete version of the original picture, just smaller.

A strong corporate culture is like a holographic picture while a weak culture is more like a photo.  If your culture is strong, then no matter what part of the company you look at you will find the entire culture alive and well.  But if your corporate culture is weak, existing mostly as a wall plaque or in words during a speech, then as you look at various functions or departments, all you find are fractions of the original, not the entire culture. Subcultures that don’t seem to fit together very well when the company needs real teamwork and alignment to deliver high levels of performance.

The Star Trek Holodeck isn’t real, but corporate culture is.  Whether you consciously create your culture or allow it to exist by default, it’s real and impacts your company’s ability to deliver on its business objectives.  Culture either propels or blocks your strategic ambitions.

Is your culture a multidimensional hologram or a photograph?

Beam me up Scotty, and Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E | john@johnrchildress.com

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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2 Responses to Corporate Culture is a hologram . . .

  1. Tom says:

    Holograms of one particular type (Leith-Upatnieks holograms, in which the recorded scene is far behind the holographic plate) do indeed contain the entire image in each small section. Such holograms act like a window: a window divided into panes passes the whole scene (but not ‘smaller’ as suggested above). Each portion of a window, or L-U hologram, allows viewing one perspective of that scene from one viewing angle. Most holograms seen today do not have this seemingly magical quality, because the recorded scene is very near the plane of the holographic plate – sometimes even passing through or in front of it. This effectively maps the three-dimensional scene onto specific portions of the holographic plate, just as objects very close to a window cannot be seen from any arbitrary viewing position looking through the window…

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