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The Geometry of Character and Culture

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Structures can be cut and pasted (2nd Order), and process can be altered through 1st Order stretching, bending and squishing, but attitude requires something quite different regarding strategies of appreciation and engagement (primary topics I am addressing in this series of essays). As I noted previously, we should appreciate character and culture, and we certainly can leverage and modify (1st order) character and culture, but we should not try to cut or paste character or culture. This is usually counterproductive – or it is highly destructive, Pasting is what leads to contradiction and irony. In 21st Century organizations there is usually a fair amount of pasting: mergers, international outreach (with the presence of multiple cultures) and multi-generational workforces (often up to four generations with the extended work life of many older employees).

Invariants

All shapes have certain invariant properties. No matter how you expand, twist or squish the shape, these properties remain present. Similarly, character and culture are invariants. They remain in place even as the person or organization adjusts to new circumstances. As a coach, each of us can help our clients identify these invariants in their own behavior (character) or in their organization’s behavior (culture).

That, in turn, helps them identify their own character or culture and the courses of stability and leverage. In looking at shapes, we find that there are trivial invariants and there are strong invariants. Similarly, there are trivial and strong invariants in character and culture. Masterful organizational coaches can help their clients discern the different between trivial and strong invariants—which can yield critical insights about where and how a coaching intervention should take place in the organization.

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