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The importance of culture in everything you do

Understanding your tribes and the Human 1.0 characteristics (reciprocity, fairness, etc.) that have been driving humans for the last 10,000 years are critical to help you make sense of employee, customer and prospect behavior. But you cannot develop a truly comprehensive understanding of the people you interact with without having a clear understanding of their culture.

You see, culture is actually another Human 1.0 characteristic (at least according to biological anthropologists) that we as humans developed as a way to accelerate our evolution without having to wait for evolutionary biology to make the changes required for us to do things. We developed boats and paddles to travel over water rather than wait for evolution to equip us with those capabilities as part of our bodies.

Culture is influenced by genetic evolution and vice versa, as Boyd and Richerson argue in one of their great books “Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution.

While the definition of culture is hotly debated between social/cultural anthropologists, biological anthropologist, evolutionary psychologists and others, the term generally refers to a body of knowledge, rituals, language and beliefs that gets passed around to help us make sense of our surroundings and drive parts of  our behavior. Culture is not something that is fixed, it is something that we constantly change and modify depending on our environment. And sometimes culture can change extremely rapidly. Take Twitter, mobile phones and Facebook as examples. The language used in all three environments are different, the do’s and don’ts are different – and all that happened within the last few years/decades, which is nothing more than an eye-blink in the context of genetic evolution.

If you truly want to understand the behavior of your employees, customers, prospects and detractors, you not only need to understand them from a tribal perspective, with modern tribes forming around shared passion, shared pain or common interests, you need to understand them from a cultural perspective. In some cases you will need to shape or change parts of your corporate culture in order to get things done, and in rare instances you will be able to shape or create a culture around what you do – which totally changes the game by creating competitive barriers that are hard to overcome.

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