Human Interest, People Culture

The Gems of Wisdom from the Cultures in Action Conference

November 6, 2023
Cultures in Action Conference

Insights on Culture, Purpose, and Leadership

Written By: Jasmine Martirossian

On October 2-4, 2023, I attended the Cultures in Action Conference in Austin, Texas that is championed and organized by Jerry Wagner.

I had the honor of moderating an afternoon of sessions, as well as leading an ice-breaker session. Above all, I had the honor of learning from industry leaders and innovators who were very inspirational. Below are highlights of the gems, without specific attribution, that the various speakers shared during the conference sessions.

  • There is no strategy without culture, you can hire all the consultants in the world, but without culture you can't do anything, your organizational ship will run aground.
  • Think of one-room schoolhouses where there was one teacher and children of all ages. How do you think they functioned? Older kids helped the teacher instructing younger kids. Organizations are similar. They have to learn together, and everyone has to be part of learning. The learning cannot be relegated just to HR.
  • Organizations often support professional development in very limited ways. They will often support only what a person is doing right now. For instance, if a janitor wants to learn Italian, it won't be supported, and the argument will be that the janitor does not need Italian. However, if we allow people to keep learning where their interests are, they might surprise us with interesting insights and solutions.
  • If you feel no anxiety at all, then you are dead. We need anxiety to fuel our drive and energy. Use it for action in the right direction.
  • It's important to be purpose-driven in anything you do. If you are alive, your purpose isn't over.
  • A key finding of the Harvard longitudinal study which started in 1938 is that having loving relationships is key to well-being.
  • Learning organizations are 78% more profitable. Of course, learning is a multi-faceted issue. It should start with hiring curious people who seek learning, and they must be action-oriented to then implement their learning and drive change for the better.
  • There is never a time when there are no problems – if anyone thinks that, then they become highly stagnant and then obsolete – what defines successful people and organizations is the ability to problem-solve, evolve, and, ideally, become proactive rather than reactive. In proactive environments the number of problems decreases because they are anticipated and addressed rather than being in fire drills.
  • Write a letter to yourself reflecting on what will be left after you pass, and what you should focus on in the short lives we have. You will be better connected to purpose if you have perspective. You are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul, have purpose.
  • Before AI (Artificial Intelligence), AI stood for Appreciative Inquiry. What can you do to help yourself connect when you are not connected.
  • Most people have fearful connotations associated with accountability. It changes when there are clear and credible expectations of the role.
  • Most organizations suffer from middle managers not communicating down key messages.
  • Effective purpose statements answer "Why?" and effective mission statements answer "How?"
  • Channel your inner toddler and always ask "Why?"
  • Go beyond "Why Do We Exist?" in your purpose statement. Ask "Why should I care?" and "Why should I be your lifelong customer?"
  • Effective purpose statements speak to something bigger than us and bigger than our inner circle.
  • Organizations and individuals have more than one purpose, but we only get one purpose statement to capture the attention of others.
  • Focus on distilling your statement to the core purpose.
  • Your mission needs to have one key word that anchors everything. Ponder on what your word is.
  • "Vidya" stands for knowledge and education in Sanskrit. Education is the lighting of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.
  • In every jungle in the morning, the deer and the lion get up and run. Most of the time the deer wins. The difference is that the lion is running for food. The deer is running for life. However, we only hear of the lion's victories. Always think analytically to see what a statement really means, and where the truth is.
  • Culture and leadership are what enables organizations to survive during a huge tech disruption. We can go through the most recent disruption – AI – with culture and leadership.
  • Every time there is a major innovation, fear and hype go together. That is the case with generative AI nowadays.
  • While needing to network, the best way to be interesting is to be interested in the other person.
  • People are like icebergs, remember that you are seeing only what's above the surface, and there is so much more underneath.
  • For best networking, do fun things – with other people.
  • Everybody is looking for Acceptance, Approval, Appreciation, and Respect.

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