Culture must be experienced.

August 3, 2015


There’s a certain irony to giving speeches and writing books as a “culture expert” because culture must be experienced to believe it.

Robert James Waller said it best when he was talking about romance…

I looked up the definition of romance in several dictionaries. As I guessed, reading the definitions of romance is about the most unromantic thing you can do…

Romance you see, is something that you take care of – romance needs food and water and care, of a kind all her own. You can destroy romance, or ate least drive her away without knowing that you are doing it.

Romance dances just beyond the firelight, in the corner of your eye. She does not like you to look at her directly, she flees from the cold light of logic and data collection when it is turned toward her. If you persist in trying to study her, however, she first disintegrates, then dissolves into nothing at all.

E.B. White once said a similar thing about humor which, ‘can be dissected, as a frog, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.’ You can’t get at romance, then, by good old Western reductionism.

That’s why for each of my topics (culture hacking, innovation and values-driven culture), I like to create an experience for people. It’s what really lasts, and it’s the most powerful way to shift beliefs without ever preaching.