Culture hacking is almost the same as software hacking. Culture hacking modifies culture, instead of modifying software. Software hackers in the 1970’s created code for personal use and for others to also use and enjoy. In the modern day, culture hackers actively modify culture for personal betterment and the betterment of others.
Hacking Culture- like it is software
What is significant here is the software view of culture. I have already written about how culture is a system, like software, and can be hacked like software. In my view culture is composed of stories, and stories are composed of language. If you modify language you are in fact culture hacking.
I credit Jim McCarthy and Michele McCarthy for emphasizing this link between culture and software, in their book SOFTWARE FOR YOUR HEAD. The book describes structured interactions for humans. Likewise I credit the McCarthy’s with moving decisively to popularize the phrase culture hacking. My book THE CULTURE GAME is literally a culture hacking manual.
Here is what Jim McCarthy says about culture hacking:
A culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that both describes and shapes a group. Our era is increasingly characterized by an emergent “software culture.” Not only is software itself creating much of our global wealth, but the unique challenges of creating our software have demanded wholly new types of engineered corporate culture from us. In response to the demands of software, various high tech development disciplines have been articulated and “packaged up.” We have created several seminal management “movements” (such as Agile, Scrum, XP, etc.). These movements represent the birth of culture engineering and are primitive compared to what will soon follow.
Culture hacking is itself a distinct kind of culture engineering, and is faithful to the particular hacker ethos that originated in the world of software hacking. Good culture hacking will tend to protect personal freedom, extend openness, embody rationality and promote culture design elegance. Culture hacking takes into account the limits and uses of authority, is skeptical of incoherent institutional power, and is subversive of it. As our many cultures become increasingly (and fruitfully) hacked, we will likely grow in effectiveness, and ambition. This will bring more and more of the world’s problems into manageable scope. This will likely trigger an unprecedented Golden Era.
Agile in reality is a great big culture hack: a collection of processes and methods and specific actions that, when used together, influence culture at various levels: team, department, division, enterprise.
Agile is a culture hack. And over time, we may start to understand it as a relatively and historically primitive one at that.
Think of it like this:
culture hacking = agile++
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