Schlagwort-Archive: Culture

In search of the right rhythm

The word rhythm is derived from the Greek rhythmós, “measure of time, and beat” and describes a temporal division into equal or variable activities occurring from time to time. Rhythmic fluctuations of measured variables are used to assess the condition of all kinds of systems, like the fever curve of the human organism, the electrical impulses of the brain, the heart rhythm and even the number of sick leaves, the frequency of work absences or the local accumulations of crimes. There is the hope that early detection and correct interpretation of these fluctuations will enable reliable predictions about the near future. In business life, one can observe how the pendulum swings back and forth between centralization and decentralization. Culture is driven by ever new, but also frequently recurring trends. As there are many areas that interact with each other, there are a lot of parameters that oscillate in the areas. In this context, the search for the right rhythm becomes a complex question.

Since many oscillations take place at the same time, we hope to find simple and synchronized rhythms. But maybe we are just learning that the synchronized pace of the impulses is an expression of unhealthy solidification and lack of energy. A good example is traffic, which is becoming increasingly congested due to more and more drivers behaving in the same way. The solution can be found in the systemic approach. Let’s be aware of a few areas with periodic fluctuations.

  • Rhythms of nature
    In nature, everything follows recurring changes without exception. This applies to the becoming and passing of a life and extends to the oscillating movements within the individual steps of a lifecycle. Thus, biological cells divide at fixed intervals and renew that way their structure until it finally fades away. By the pulse, the breathing rate or electric activity of the brain, we can recognize the health state of living beings – uniformity is an indication of trouble. In the environment, the tides or El Niño are changes that keep Gaia going through the seasons – extreme swings lead to droughts or heavy rainfall. The earth rotates once a day around its own axis and needs a year around the sun – due to the angle of inclination of the axes of the world these cycles lead to the seasons and together with the moon to the tides. What we rarely become aware of is the fact that the changes in the countless building blocks of nature follow vibrations, which are difficult to detect.
    Since all components follow their own number of cycles, we only notice overlapping deflections. That is why we are constantly looking for natural patterns that show us a direction in our activities – similar to the fluctuations that have been recognized over a long period of time and packed into proverbial rules – e.g. April showers bring May flowers; Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
  • Rhythm of culture
    Our lifestyles consist of our identities and beliefs, languages and actions, stories and experiences. They appear in the visible behaviors, rituals, stories and things. The underlying values and basic assumptions can only be derived indirectly. Cultural aspects also have their own cycle: the zeitgeist follows changing conditions in science and popular art; the mass media have their publication rhythms; sporting events have seasons.
    The rhythm is driven by the alternation of generations, which makes everything different and, after a few changes, reuses something old – when the young rediscover vinyl and shellac; when, despite all the digitalization, the book format survives with old printing techniques and haptic attractive books. These trends are triggered by disturbances that emerge out of nowhere, pass the tipping point and become a cultural wave.
  • Rhythm of the economy
    The economy not only generates but also drives the general ups and downs of markets and businesses. The economic complexity results from accelerating changes in technology, creating faster new goods and services, and more capable types of customers, who move swifter than the companies. Let us think of the Kondratiev cycles, whose long waves are characterized by certain machines and objects and describe every sixty years a new paradigm that shake existing business models – the age of the steam engine and cotton (approx. 1771), the age of the railway and steel (approx.1829), the age of electricity and chemistry (approx.1875), the age of oil, cars and mass production (approx.1908), and the age of information and telecommunications (approx.1971). The digital transformation is for the time being the culmination of the current wave that is leading to massive job losses for simple tasks.
    The rhythm of the economy is the result of countless variations in management styles, collaboration models, manufacturing and software technologies – in other words, the waves are hidden in a broad band of white noise. This explains the continuous attempts to process more and more data (Big Data), in order to filter out the patterns, which would allow better prediction of the markets. The advantage lies in the opportunity of taking into account comprehensive data sets. The disadvantage lies in the evaluation models, which, despite the huge computer power, set the framework for the results. We should not forget that old approaches, like tossing a coin or looking into the crystal ball, already have a 50/50 chance.
  • Rhythm of personal expressions
    Even we experience such waves. We present, for example, in a lecture our messages with the help of our posture, gestures, facial expressions and intonation. The way one is posing and uses the space during the lecture, the usage of arms and hands, the volatile facial expressions and the volume, height and emphasis of the spoken words create additional expressions besides the content statements and together result in a positive or negative evaluation. If the expression lacks rhythm, i.e. if you stand motionlessly in the same place and rattle off passionlessly, you lose the attention of the audience and do not achieve the desired effect.
    It is possible to improve your own presentation style through practice and conscious control of the expression. Then you manage to create the different rhythms, and thus strengthen your own message. This creates acceptance, especially, if you keep the audience swinging along.

These examples are a simple collection of aspects that are in oscillation, up and down, and that we want to understand and predict. It is important to realize that no matter where you look, the wave movements of each aspect happen completely detached from one another. However, the more different the individual rhythms are, the healthier seems to be the whole. Tightly organized groups are losing their agility through rigid chains of command – like in Fukushima, in the former Eastern Bloc states and soon in the U.S. The attempt to bring everything in lockstep is rather counterproductive, because all examples show that only the ‘chaotic’ oscillation of the elements creates a viable system.

Bottom line: One sees in nature, culture, economy and even in personal expression that waves are overlapping. This means that traditional organizational structures of the industrial age, which were designed to synchronize all functions, are no longer adequate. Agility requires openness, commitment, dedication and the corresponding Y-image of people. The right rhythm is therefore not ONE uniform vibration of the components, but the living, unpredictable hodgepodge of countless oscillations.

Culture – the essential information bubble

A look at cultures always takes place from the individual perspective of the own origin. The description uses words, associations and beliefs that are unconsciously determined by the culture in which you have grown up. This begins with the filtered attention that only notices aspects for which the viewer is accustomed to – are individuals or groups at the center of interest? This continues with the world view, which provides explanatory patterns for the observed facts, e.g. religious or secular convictions. The words that are used by the observing culture are available for the description, e.g. the interpretation of terms such as freedom, work, and government. If it is followed by an action, then this act is based on the possibilities of one’s society, e.g. imprisonment vs. corporal punishment. Already Ludwig Wittgenstein mentioned “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” This turns our personal culture into the essential information bubble.

The following examples are cultural dimensions that hold this information bubble together.

  • Socialization
    One focal point of growing into the world is the social focus on oneself versus on one’s own group. The emphasis on independence and one’s own needs is an individualistic orientation. If, on the other hand, the group is the center of attention, then the affiliation and subordination of one’s own interests to the group determines one’s own identity.
    When different points of view come together, the participants focus on their learned standards. For example, while the collectivists ignore the desire for personal freedom, the individualists are missing the need for affiliation. This blind spot is preserved by the constant exchange of already familiar ideas. Socialization stabilizes the information bubble that is isolated from otherness and results in the known exclusions – e.g. Xenophobia, nationalism, and racism.
  • Hierarchy
    The relationship between people is essentially determined by the understanding of the position, the influence and the responsibilities. Hierarchical societies quickly accept the claim to power and the decisions of superiors. At the same time, this view relieves the burden of responsibility, because the higher-ranking persons naturally take over their responsibility. Egalitarian societies, which practice a flat hierarchy with group members of equal rank, are skeptical about power claims. Since they meet at eye level, they do not understand when they are presented a fait accompli without asking and then are still expected to be committed. The understanding and acceptance of a stratification of society and the associated roles can quickly lead to tensions between different cultures – e.g. lack of or too much respect, required decisiveness.
  • Time
    Differences in culture are often attached to the dealing with time. This begins with the division of time into fixed sections or flowing transitions. With the introduction of ever more accurate clocks, the day could be split into finer and finer segments. Nevertheless, cultures differ in the handling of appointments – e.g. Punctuality, duration, timeliness. This includes the use of time for one or more tasks at a time – e.g. multitasking, single tasking. Strongly internalized is the division into past, present, and future. Past-oriented people value experience and established approaches. In the here and now it is all about short-term, quick outcomes. Future-oriented people are not interested in the current situation and Quick-wins, but in long-term, sustainable results. You can easily determine the view on time with the following questions for oneself and others: Where do you see the future? Where do you point, if you indicate the past? In most parts of the world it has become accustomed that we find the future ahead of us and that we point backwards into the past. There are, in fact, nations, where it is the other way around. The past is visibly in front of them and the future lies invisibly behind their back. The cultural sense of time results in filtered reports that hide other perceptions of time.

Bottom line: The few examples should make it clear that we all float in an information bubble that distorts or at least burdens our look at other areas. Our socialization has made us personalities shaped by the surrounding. The responsibility is determined by our understanding of hierarchy. Dealing with time determines the perspective of the information bubble. So today, when we talk about the information bubble and alternative facts, it is not necessarily a matter of populists, but a necessary understanding of the cultural differences. Long before the political opinions of lobbyists we are already caught up in our cultural information bubble. We only overcome the limit, when we try to break free of it and behave openly and tolerantly towards the unknown and the strange. Culture is the essential information bubble that limits us.