Charles Starrett

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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.

Ceci n'est pas une culture

René Magritte’s famous work, “The Treachery of Images” is a painting of a pipe with the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” or “This is not a pipe.” The point is that it’s a painting of a pipe, not an actual, physical pipe.

Culture is much the same way. We can describe it or influence it by writing out sets of values, guiding principles, and even policies or procedures, but at the end of the day, culture is what culture does.

It’s what people say and do that creates the culture. The habits, patterns, and unwritten norms of interaction. It’s how people behave under pressure, and when (they think) nobody is watching.

And it’s the little acts of care, and the little acts of disrespect that grow over time into a culture that is thriving, or toxic.

It’s absolutely worth taking the time to discuss and write down what kind of culture you want. But what’s even more important is paying attention to the culture you have. And reflecting on the gap between the two.

9 June 2022

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