Marika Koskenkanto // March 12 2020

The power of positivity in cultural transformation

The world is changing faster than ever before. Both customer and employee needs and expectations keep evolving. New technologies and ways to use them are emerging. Here we mention just a few of these constantly ongoing changes.

This requires the ability to adapt to the changing environment from the companies that want to succeed and stay ahead of the competition. The needed changes are often big and can’t be achieved without cultural transformation.

Top-down led cultural transformation with strictly planned logical steps intended to make the change happen most often fail. Human beings are emotional creatures who have their own set of habits and values. What can be done to support the transformation then?

A positive culture leads to organisational effectiveness

There is a wide variety of approaches and tools that can help cultural transformation — however, one that I would like to highlight is the power of positivity!

Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron state in their article in Harvard Business Review: “When organizations develop positive, virtuous cultures they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement.”

Workplaces with their emphasis on performance and avoiding errors can become over-critical, and praise can be rather infrequent. Both the general atmosphere at the workplace and the treatment of your colleagues may need some fine-tuning to get the power of positivity working.

Dreams of positive future motivate change

According to Sarah Lewis in her book Positive Psychology and Change (2016), a key psychological state that helps motivate people to change is hopefulness. Research has shown a link between hope and favourable organisational outcomes such as profitability. One way of inducing hope is to co-create dreams of positive future states to lead the transformation process.

This can be achieved for example in a vision workshop where key stakeholders form a shared view of the future. The whole organisation should be engaged in the change by asking for comments and ideas on the vision and how it could best be achieved. Showing appreciation for everyone’s opinion is essential in motivating people to play an active role in the implementation of the plans, and also helps to improve the employee experience.

Helping others to flourish

Also seeking out the positive in people and situations may help the progress of cultural transformation. Positive feedback from colleagues and their favourable view of each other can help bring out the best capabilities and inspire them to be part of making the vision and change a reality.

Lotta Uusitalo-Malmivaara, an expert on special education at University of Helsinki, gave some good advice during a lecture (in Finnish only) on how to treat other people:

We should pay attention to our “mental carbon footprint”, the “hygiene” of how we talk about or talk to other people: Saying mean or depressing things to others should be prohibited or regarded as socially unacceptable just like sneezing towards other people, which nowadays we know spreads unwanted influence.

For example, you can think and speak of a person’s trait in very different ways: Is a person annoyingly “uncertain” or just healthily “cautious”? Or is a person a “gossiper” or someone who “keeps others well informed”? Words are so important!

Digitalist values and positivity

At Digitalist, we are also going through gradual cultural transformation. We revised our company values (by co-creation, of course!) about a year ago, and not so surprisingly, all the values include something about a positive approach or doing things together:

“We show respect and appreciation for each other.”

“We believe in co-creation.”

“Coach each other to the next level.”

“We challenge our customers in positive ways.”

This positive mindset has started to grow roots in our company and based on the empowering and inspiring effects (I have seen it work on people, including myself) I recommend adding positivity as a key tool in your service design toolbox!

P.S. A positive approach does not mean that you should sweep the challenges and problems related to cultural transformation under the carpet. These issues should certainly be tackled as well, but keeping up a positive mood while doing so does not hurt.

Also, In Finland, perhaps even more than elsewhere, people may be a bit allergic to praise that they feel is undeserved or given just for the sake of it. Remember: give readily positive feedback about good deeds and attitude, and pay attention to positive issues — but be genuine and do it from the heart!

 

 

Would you be interested in hearing more about how we can help in the transformation of your business and organisational culture with vision workshops and co-creation? Contact us at Digitalist (hellohelsinki@digitalistgroup.com) and let’s talk!