The Emergence of Our Natural Culture

Just viewed a couple of videos by Don Tapscott that are remarkable close to what I, myself, have perceived through my own systems thinking and observance of cultural patterns.

Institutions are failing. They can’t handle the weight of the complexity that is overloading them. We are effectively living in the past, utilizes approaches from many years ago that no longer work today. We’re at a turning point, a transition and transformation from the old world view to a new world view that is being born as we speak. We need to stop trying to iterate on the past and instead leap courageously into the future.

We’re not leaping blinding though. There are many people around the world with the foresight and vision to see this change and embrace it openly. They’ve been working for years to prepare this bridge, each in their own way, and to help people to navigate across it into this new world view.

I find it somewhat ironic that Don initially indicates that we’re creating this global machine or computer via the Web. Actually the reason that things have gotten so bad as they have is because things have become too machine-like. In effect, we’ve lost our humanity, our human nature, somewhere along the way, in exchange for efficiency and desired perfection that is failing us dramatically because of our inability to adapt and change our “programming”.

We’re not machines and we’re not perfect. And that, strangely enough, is a good thing because it our imperfections that make us human. It is our frailties, our vulnerabilities, that make us human to each other, thus making us want to reach out to one another and connect. But it’s apparent that Don himself even realizes this at the end when he indicates the emergence of a networked intelligence, a collective mind, that allows us to learn, grow, and adapt collaboratively in ways we’ve never dreamt possible before.

So what’s happening here though? What are the core components of this cultural DNA that is effectively changing mankind, helping it to evolve to its next stage of evolution? Open, sharing, and caring are the core trinity elements that I’ve seen, as Don seems to attest to as well. But it goes further than that. It’s how these elements are utilized together as a sort of cultural vaccine that rewires an organization, effectively transforming the people within it into a neural network for the emergence of a collective mind, thus allowing them to collaborate in an almost symbiotic nature. (And yes I’ve seen this level of collaboration within a team before using this same cultural DNA and it’s simply amazing to experience.)

But really what’s the composition of this cultural DNA? Well that’s what I’ve been working on for years and, yes, I believe I’ve finally cracked it. The hard part, as usual, is articulating what I intuitively know. What I can say though is that I’m calling it “Natural Culture” because from my perspective it’s a culture that restores the human nature within organizations and kickstarts it to life, transforming it from a machine into a living collective entity that can finally sustain the life within it.

Collective Potential

I‘ve had some interesting conversations this last week with a variety of different people. In doing so, it’s made me realize something that I intuitively already knew. My vision isn’t to help empower people individually but instead to empower them within a collective environment. In effect, I shouldn’t be focusing on explaining how a person can figure out their individual passion and purpose so much as I should be focusing on explaining how an organization can naturally release the creative potential of the people within it, primarily through its culture.

What I’ve realized is that by avoiding the focus on the individual specifically, you create a more natural nurturing environment to release the potential from that individual. That’s because if you put too much focus on that individual then they almost want to automatically close themselves off from that targeted focus (i.e. turtling) which in turn makes it difficult for their potential to be released. But in working with others, they naturally want to feel useful and valued, so they naturally in turn try to better themselves which in turn releases their potential.

The interesting thing is that the focus of the group, why they are being brought together, is almost irrelevant. In effect, it is just the social object or community of practice that they gather around. What’s important is what is cultivated within the group and how it interacts. This in turn allows for the release of the potential within the individual.

That said though, the more meaningful the reason they have come together, I think the more possibility that their potential will be released. In effect, the more epic the challenge, the more likely their potential will rise and react to that challenge.

Discovering Your Emerging Passion, Purpose, and Vision

About a month back I was playing around with Workfu when I stumbled across a couple of patterns that made me laugh out loud when I saw how evident they were. You see when using Workfu, it asks you to enter in keywords that relate to your professional life. After entering in those keywords though, I felt like it would be better if they were organized in some way, rather than just being a jumbled display of keywords. When I started to organize them intuitively, I suddenly realized that the two repeating patterns that I was organizing them by were my passion and purpose in life!

Taking this into consideration, I realized that if someone actually didn’t know their passion and purpose in life, they could potentially figure them out using this exact same approach. That said, while this worked for me because of my insights and research within this field, it might obviously not work for someone else for a variety of reasons. That said though, I thought it was significant enough to share with others anyway.

Just a few words to set the baseline of understanding though. Your passion is your energy, your natural talent. Your purpose is the direction with which you release or express your passion. Your vision is that which you hope to become, your passion and purpose working in harmony to achieve your life’s calling within a specific scope and context. It’s important to realize though that you may not have enough knowledge or experience at this time to fully realize your ultimate vision in life but at the very least it will hopefully reveal the next step within it. In addition, feel free to use titles outside of your work as well, as they may reveal more of who you truly are since many of the jobs we do today are to just pay the bills rather than being something that we’re passionate about.

First off, list your job titles with your current job at the top and oldest at the bottom. Remove any descriptors, so as to achieve a title of just two words (i.e. senior web developer = web developer). In addition, if the meaning of the title doesn’t seem evident with a quick scan, try to summarize it down to its core meaning that feels right to you (i.e. clerical clerk = organization support)

Life Researcher*
Web Designer
Community Support (Customer Support)
Web Developer
Team Leader
Community Architect
Business Advisor
Systems Support
Body Therapist (Massage Therapist)*
Culture Creator*
Community Founder*
Guild Leader*
Systems Support
Organization Support (Clerical Clerk)

* Signifies a personal title outside of my professional life

Now look at the first word in your job titles and group them together, removing any duplicates if you want but at least make the duplicated keyword bigger or bolder so as to relay the importance of it. These are your passion keywords.

Life, Web, Community, Team, Business, Systems, Body, Culture, Guild, Organization

Now look at the second word in your job titles and group them together, again removing any duplicates but making the duplicated keyword bigger or bolder. These are your purpose keywords.

Researcher, Designer, Support, Developer, Leader, Architect, Advisor, Creator, Founder

Now this is where it starts to get really tricky because you need to see below the surface and understand the pattern as a thread that weaves through your life and these keywords. This is the point where you have to let go of logic and start to use your feelings more. For example, if you’ve been having positive or negative feelings throughout your life, particularly within work environments, try to draw on those. For example, I’ve notice throughput my life that I dislike corporate environments because they often have an unnatural culture that makes a person feel useless, disconnected, depressed, and machine-like at the end of the work day. Whereas I want to work within an environment that makes me feel valued, whole, happy, and alive like a human being.

Taking this in mind, I looked at my passion keywords and notice a pattern right off the bat. All of these keywords relate to systems, be they technical (i.e. computers, Web), organizational (i.e. business, community), or organic (i.e. body). Again this was much easier for me to see this pattern, as I had already figured this out earlier in my life. So based upon this though, my passion appears to be systems.

Looking at my purpose, most of the keywords related to building or creating something. So my purpose seems to be a creator which does relate to me as a cultural creative. Yet while I found this to be somewhat true, it didn’t feel perfectly right to me for some reason. To figure out why, let’s see if we can put this all together using my passion and purpose keywords, as well as my feelings, to come up with my visionary job title. One key thing to remember though is that your vision defines the specific scope and context of your passion and purpose at work. Put another way, it helps you figure out if you want to work on a large scale or a small scale. For example, some people prefer helping others one person at a time, while others prefer helping many people all at once.

For me, while I enjoy deep interactions with one person, I have this strong innate desire to help many people all at once. Thus in terms of the scope and context of my passion, it feels like its on an organizational scale or even on a societal scale. Thus in looking at the variety of system keywords that I used to figure out my systems passion, culture to me seemed like the best word that relates to the scope and context of my passion in detail. In effect, I believe my best systems approach is using culture to help change the world around me at a grand scale.

In terms of my purpose keywords, as I said before, none of my job titles seem to articulate what I’ve naturally been doing or wanting to do in my work with regards to my purpose. Being a creator is very close, as playful creativity is at the heart of my life, but it still doesn’t seem to be the perfect word. In looking back on my feelings, it almost feels like I want to help “heal” organizations and the people within them, so they they can release their full potential. While saying I’m a healer does feel right and even relates to my Keirsey personality profile (i.e. Healer), it just sounds too much like a New Age title. “Hi, I’m your organizations new Cultural Healer. Let’s have a big group hug!” Uh, I don’t think so. One word that did jump out though in my thoughts, and seemed more business-like, was an Integrator. Integration within systems is a common buzzword today so it felt much closer but still not perfect. For now, I’ll live with it though until something better emerges.

So all said and done, my visionary job title for what I want to be doing is a Cultural Integrator. If this seems to be a little far fetched at this time then you might want to read a book called Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken (or even another book entitled The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge). It describes a job title that is somewhat similar to what I’d be doing as a Cultural Integrator and what I’ve already been doing intuitively throughout my work life. But why not just use Chief Culture Officer for my job title then since it’s something that’s already emerging within the work force? Primarily because I dislike the corporate connotations it implies in its use which in turn could distance me from the type of non-corporate companies that I’d like to help.

In a future post though, I’ll try to explain how you can break down these patterns into even more specific details, thus allowing you to see the skills that got you where you are today and the skills that you will need to get you where you want to be in the future. Even more so, I’ll reiterate again the importance of scope and context to help you understand how your skills are like languages or lingo that help you to communicate your passion and purpose to others around you thus allowing you to interact and relate to them better, particularly within your work life.

Update June 21/2012: In thinking about this a bit more, I’m growing fond of the title Cultural Designer more and more. The word designer corresponds more closely within my purpose keyword of creator and it also probably seems much more human and familiar to most people as well. While the healing and integration connotations aren’t as noticeable, they are hopefully still implied deep within as great design both simplifies and empowers those whom interact with it. Best of all, Cultural Designer sounds much more grounded and accessible, particularly in comparison to a Chief Culture Officer which sounds very elitist and inaccessible.

Defining Passion, Purpose, and Vision

Know thyself. For most people on the planet, this is easier said than done. The primary reason being is that we are so distracted today, not just by advertising that disempowers us, but by the basic need for survival which forces us to worker longer hours, thus giving us less time to focus and reflect on who we really are and what we are here to do. If you do find the time to reflect on this though, I think it’s important to fully understand passion, purpose, vision, and their relationship with one another first, as it will make it much easier in trying to figure out your identity as a whole.


Passion is your creative emotional energy that you must authentically and continually express within the world, so as to naturally feel alive. Think of it as your natural talent that energizes you through its use, that sustains you through life, and keeps you stabilized, as well as afloat. Put another way, it is your vehicle for expressing and moving through life. It is why I symbolize it as an intricately carved ship within my own life. Once you know your passion, you’ll start to feel more calm and stable inside, even when things seem chaotic around you. That’s because your passion is at your heart, deep inside you.

I don’t know where I am, but I’m not lost.

Emile Khadaji, The Man Who Never Missed


Purpose gives your life a sense of direction. Yes, knowing your passion can help stabilize you but you’ll still feel frustrated because even though you can weather many storms, you’ll still feel like a captain without a direction or bearing to sail by. For example, when I knew my passion, I started saying to myself “Ok, I know what I’m good at but how do I put this talent to use?” This is why I symbolize purpose as a star within my own life because it is something I can navigate by, a logical calculated bearing that makes sense to my mind.


Vision is the realization and identification of your life in context and harmony with the greater world around you. It is your passion and purpose put together, your heart and mind integrated as one. It is your life lived to its fullest. It is why I symbolize it as the destination that lies beneath the star that I sail towards with my ship. More importantly though, vision is seeing that destination in minute detail, scope, and complexity, like visualizing a magnificent city glowing along the coast of an as yet undiscovered new world.

In closing, I think Peter Senge’s quote below from his book The Fifth Discipline helps to clarify purpose and vision even better using a couple of historical examples.

But vision is different from purpose. Purpose is similar to a direction, a general heading. Vision is a specific destination, a picture of a desired future. Purpose is abstract. Vision is concrete. Purpose is “advancing man’s capability to explore the heavens.” Vision is “a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.” Purpose is “being the best I can be”, “excellence”. Vision is breaking the four minute mile.

Generalists vs Specialists

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the rise of the generalist. What’s important to realize though is that this isn’t a question about generalists being better than specialists but instead a question of what role is needed more at this time. In effect, both roles are essential but at certain times one is needed more than the other.

Right now, we are going through a huge transitional period, a paradigm shift from our old world view to a new world view. Everything we know, that allowed us to survive as long as we have, is starting to crumble and collapse around us due to the weight of complexity. To survive, we need to find a new world to live within and we need to find it soon.

What we need now at this time are explorers. These individuals are natural generalists, as they have the ability to quickly learn, adapt and survive on their own with their diverse skillsets. Even more than skills though, they require a certain emotional and spiritual attitude to survive and thrive under adverse and unknown conditions. Most important of all though, they require a natural intuitive ability, similar to systems thinking, to map out and translate an understanding of this new world when they find it and fully realize it in its entirety.

Thus the explorer travels out and after repeated landings from different locations they soon starts getting a visual map of what they have discovered as a whole. This is no different than what many generalists are striving to do now. They are looking at things from different perspectives to try to get a better understanding of the new world view that they are already encountering now, so as to be able to better communicate it to others.

Once the generalist explorer does fully comprehend what they have discovered and can articulate it back to others within the old world, they then become navigators to help others get safely across to this new world. In effect, the generalists role is to help bridge the gap between our old world view and our new world view, so that others can safely traverse it to their new home.

Once this transitional journey has been taken by others, then the next phase of the work begins which is where the specialist comes into play. Specialists are like the colonists and settlers that populate and build within the new world, once it is safe to do so. Unlike explorers, who need diverse skills to survive, specialists can focus on one particular skill because the diversity of the whole colonizing community is what allows them to survive.

So there you have it. Generalists aren’t better than specialists and specialists aren’t better than generalists. Each is integral to the cyclic evolution and emergence of our species as a whole. Generalists are better suited for transitional periods and specialists are better suited for safe stable periods.