Great cultures are built by rabid simplifiers – Colin Browne

Culture takes hold when the larger number of people in an organisation live its most charismatic tenets. When they behave in a similar way and believe similar things, you’ve got the basis of what becomes recognisable as culture. An organisation’s leaders must drive the desired agenda, but that agenda only acquires teeth when the people get behind it.

It makes sense therefore for your cultural tenets to be easy to get behind. Which means it makes sense for them to be easy to to understand. Yet ironically, it’s that bit, which is hard for leadership teams to get their heads around.

In this, ignorance may actually be bliss. One of the most spurious skills in the business world has always been the ability to communicate at a corporate level; to flatten ideas and take away all their spikes by camouflaging them in perceived higher intelligence. The things we’re good at get described as our core competencies; and we don’t just do those things, we leverage them. More absurdly, we don’t make it simple to get the results we want, we facilitate processes to deliver desired outcomes. We can’t even say simple, simply.

This may cause you to shift your paradigm to one of antagonism, but I believe the inability to clearly communicate is a big reason for weak culture.


Because aside from the management crews who use language as a buffer, the world doesn’t generally seek to complicate things. We’re a species that sniffs out life hacks almost as a second profession. We generally just want to get on with it, whatever that thing may be. And most of us are far happier when we know what it is that we’re supposed to be doing.

That alone, makes the case for what is known as social ranging: using appropriate language for the audience. It’s not condescending; it’s common sense.

I’ve long since lost count of the number of times I’ve been in the room where a broad employee group including cleaners, senior leaders, and everyone else in-between gets the same talk, but I could probably count on one hand the number of times that talk was equally comprehensible to each.

While I don’t suggest that all internal language should be set at the level of the least educated among you, I certainly do suggest – insist even, if I may – that the language you use when sharing their mission, goals and parameters with them is precisely that.

But at the very least, if all you can manage is to recalibrate the way you communicate to that of normal conversational style, you’ll forever change the shape of your organisation. Inclusion through clarity. We can’t care equally when we don’t all get what it is we’re supposed to care about.

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