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  • Writer's pictureNick Smith

X is for Xennials

In this 'guest' blog, Chris Rivinus of Energy Aspects and CyberManiacs highlights the potential for applying cultural and corporate anthropology approaches to Business Change, introducing Xennials on the way.

Xennials, according to Wikipedia, ‘are the micro-generation of people on the cusp of the Generation X and Millennial demographic cohorts. Researchers and popular media use birth years from the late 1970s to early 1980s.’

Bet you didn’t even know that Xennials was a “thing”. Well it is. This cohort has the distinction of essentially being digital natives, like Millennials, having grown up in a world increasingly dominated by computer tech. However, unlike Millennials, their pre-teen and teen years were largely untouched by the now ever-present impacts of social media, aligning their experiences of bonding with peers and connecting to information more with Gen Xers. (Facebook wasn’t launched until 2004.)

This way of thinking is nothing new for cultural anthropologists. Shared experience is the essential ingredient for culture as well as cultural change. And understanding the cultures and sub-cultures in your organisation is essential to successful business change management. Cultures in the workplace are tangible forces - and more than just establishing a shared ‘way of working’, cultures are designed to defend themselves. Through mechanisms around inclusion vs exclusion, cultures use our needs for social cohesion by making things easier for individuals who perpetuate cultural norms and harder for those who don’t.

Any sort of change introduced into the workplace will naturally and inevitably challenge established cultural patterns in different ways, so this has real relevance for Business Change. Understanding the natural triggers of resistance (and those of alignment) relating to a culture or sub-culture in your organisation can inform the way change is introduced and the order in which change activities happen, thereby facilitating more successful behavioural change. Cultural anthropology and even ‘corporate anthropology’ have been around for decades and they provide lots of resources available to help with

Business Change. Some examples to get you started include:

  • Geert Hofstede’s work is often challenged and some of his conclusions controversial. However, his basic framework for understanding national cultures and culture in the workplace is still an excellent place to start. (Or see Riding the Waves of Culture by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner for another model)

  • Social Network Analysis (around since before the rise of social networks) can also begin to help identify the organic clusters of activity in your organisation that are creating shared experience and fomenting distinct cultural patterns.

  • Persona mapping, an excellent ingredient in any business change effort, can and should be extended to consider the key cultural traits of groups within your organisation brought together by a shared process or corporate objective.

Of course, it’s important to remember that everyone is an individual and that culture is only one type of influence on an individual’s decisions and behaviour. However, culture is a tangible influence when looking at group behaviour and trends over time and should be accounted for…especially when it comes to trying to achieve organisational change.

Chris Rivinus is Head of Technology & Change at Energy Aspects, and a Non-Executive Director and Cyber Culture Evangelist at Cybermainiacs. With qualifications in Anthropology, Business, and Cyber Security he has developed a depth of insight and breadth of perspective during more than 20 years experience of leading teams in technology and change.

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