Culture Hacks: it's the small things


When people start to think about culture change, often a whole lot of memories (some not so great) come flooding back about past ‘change efforts’.

Change, important and unavoidable, often gets a lot of undeserved bad press, possibly because in some instances, people overcomplicate things. A bit like Steven Covey’s circle of influence or circle of concern, if we focus on the big stuff, things we have little to no control over, then it can all seem too hard, overwhelming or even pointless. Focus on what we’ve got direct or indirect control over and then there’s the potential to ‘nudge’ things along. 
Small things can indeed have a huge impact, and here’s a few solid examples – 

  • When McDonalds had their counter staff ask each customer, ‘Would you like fries with that order?’, profits went through the roof
  • When operating theatre staff began introducing themselves and describing their roles before any surgery, death rates fell by an astonishing 40%, and the rate of complications by up to a third
    (Atul Gawanda, New England Journal of Medicine)
  • When managers at a chain of retail stores scored their daily mood, for every point up on a 1 to 7 scale, their 57,656 customers spent 5.07 % more, $3.64 each, adding $209,867 to the bottom line (Dr David Hamilton, The Contagious Power of Thinking) 
  • When Marriott implemented flexible work hours, productivity increased even though the number of hours worked decreased

So here’s a few simple, culture-changing hacks that you can do without needing permission, without anyone knowing, without needing a budget.  

  • What if you amped up your listening skills and gave everyone the gift of your attention?
  • What if, appropriately, you started seeing the funny side of things?
  • What if you started smiling at people, genuinely?
  • What if, daily, you started catching people doing something right?
  • What if you meditated in your car for ten minutes before starting work?
  • What if, when new ideas are raised, you started saying ‘yes, and’… instead of ‘yes but’?
  • What if all your meetings were walking meetings, rather than stuck in meeting room? 

…and remember, keep at it, persistence is key, and the rewards significant.

- Penny Nesbitt