Is the word ‘culture’ overused in the vocabulary of business? Does technology shape the culture of business now that we rock up to the job with a mobile phone and one or two other devices that are essential to get through our work. So, does culture and tech intersect?

I’ve written books for Microsoft (subject Office 365) and Google (subject Google Apps for Work) and skirted the subject of culture. So I set about putting that right and reached out to an expert in this field. That expert is Kim Wylie Change and Transformation Lead Google for Work who understandably makes references to Google in the text that follows.

Lessons in Culture

The connection between technology and culture has long been recognised and chronicled on a quarterly academic journal founded in 1959. It is an official publication of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) (isn’t Wikipedia wonderful) published by Johns Hopkins University Press with contributors principally from leading academic institutions.

In the present day, business conversations frequently reference innovation, competition, change and it is seems like the frequency of change is increasing and that has an impact on people. If, as many believe, people are the number one asset of an organisation then people need the umbrella of a culture that supports them in a demanding world. With technology part of business DNA the triangle of people – process – technology has an intersection with the culture of an organisation.

Defining Culture

A recent study by PWC found that 67% of business leaders agree that their organisation’s culture is critical to business success. Culture can be defined in many different ways, but is essentially a combination of the behaviours, values and attitudes that exist with an organisation. Google Apps can play a part in helping to change elements of an organisational culture by allowing employees the ability to communicate, collaborate and share more openly than they would have been able to do with traditional technology. According to Matt Cain from Gartner “Enterprises that focus on creating a more engaged workforce through a more social, mobile, accessible and data driven work environment will gain significant competitive advantage over companies that continue with a traditional IT orientation.”

Culture in Action

Having a strong and positive organisational culture will help improve levels of employee engagement, increase the likelihood of innovative ideas coming from anywhere in the organisation and reduce levels of turnover. A recent study done by Raconteur found that 88% of business leaders who believe their company does foster a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration also say employee morale and job satisfaction are high.

  • Have you thought about how your organisational culture impacts your business?
  • Are people motivated to share information with one another?
  • Where does innovation come from?
  • Are all employees empowered to innovate?
  • Is teamwork and customer focus at the forefront of everything you do?

A Culture of Sharing

Many of the organisations that have Gone Google Apps have reported significant positive impact on their organisational culture. They’ve discovered numerous benefits come when people share information openly via Google Sites, Docs, Sheets and G+, when people connect face-to-face on hangouts, where they celebrate successes through sharing on G+ and when all employees are given the channel to communicate with leadership and suggest ideas for how things could be improved.

Cultural Leadership

Collaboration, openness and transparency form the foundation of a strong culture, and this is exactly what Google Apps is designed to enable.  However having the right technology in place is just one component of organisational culture change. Changes will also need to be made to behaviours and this must start with the behaviours of leaders. Leaders will need to lead by example and start sharing and encouraging conversations with all levels of the organisation to demonstrate that openness and transparency is the new way of operating.

The Cultured Organisation

How would describe the culture of an organisation that you work for, or a customer of, or supplier to? What words do you use? Culture can be hard to define and therefore hard to put into words.

Some words that come to mind: dynamic, innovative, caring, fun, trustworthy, respectful. These words that talk to culture are the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that employees share and use on a daily basis in their work.

With technology ingrained in our work it is hard to imagine that it is not influencing culture. How that translates into the words above is something that will continue to interest me.

Big thanks to Kim Wylie.