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Culture’s Role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

By August 20, 2018June 4th, 2019Leadership

Culture’s Role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Culture’s Role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Culture’s Role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The New Now

Changing work, changing workforces

Artificial intelligence, automation, younger workforces, remote working, super tasking, flat structures, new job types, intrapreneurship – wherever you look, the nature of work is changing.

Yet, as long as people work together, employees will always have a need to feel connected, involved and part of a bigger, more meaningful and shared purpose.

The World Economic Forum puts this need into context:

The world requires a new kind of workplace – one with the adaptability, entrepreneurialism and the trust of all stakeholders – that can bring people together with the power to make change, to achieve mutual understanding and empathy, to come to common agreement and, where appropriate, to push action forward.

So, while today’s workplaces reflect the ever-growing diversity and complexity of our tech-driven world, we remain what we are:


In an age of digital disruption, where change is constant, we have an extraordinary opportunity to rewrite the rules of everything work-related; from motivation and engagement to connectivity and communication.

Yet, we must not forget that it is culture that binds the many dimensions of the workplace experience together. And culture has never been more critical to business success than right now.

In a whitepaper by Deloitte about the transition to the future of work, a Bersin survey reveals that 69% of C-suite executives believe that their culture is a ‘critically important factor’ in realising the organisation’s mission and vision.

In another culture survey conducted by Katzenbach Center at Strategy&, 84% of the executives said culture is ‘critical to business success’.

But if culture is widely understood as vital to business success, why then does it receive so little attention in organisations? Also, why is the call for culture change largely ignored by management?

In the Katzenbach survey, 96% of respondents agreed that some form of culture change was needed within their organisations.

When interviewed about the findings of this survey, Katzenbach Center head and Strategy& principal, Rutger von Post, said:

“The single biggest surprise to me was that a full 51% of respondents believe their organization’s culture is in need of a major overhaul.”

A possible reason for management’s avoidance of culture-based concerns is that culture, itself carries a negative legacy perception; one that persists to this day. There are still executives who see corporate culture as a ‘soft’ issue; something for ‘the bleeding hearts’ (whoever they may be). This misperception is compounded by the view (again, mistaken) that culture defies measurement and is, therefore, not a material consideration.

This, even in the face of several current and high-profile examples of the damage caused by toxic cultures to brand equity and business value. Not to mention, a mass of evidence that demonstrates the causal link between culture and performance.

But even in organisations where the connection between culture and business performance is fully appreciated, lack of culture change knowledge, skills and resources hamper change efforts and, inevitably, change efficacy.

Whether an organisation is positioned for culture transformation or not, one fact is undeniable. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution – an age in which artificial intelligence, machine learning, mass automation and augmented reality loom large – culture plays a key role. Not simply in shaping the future of work, but in creating an abundant future. For humans.

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton is the founder and chief strategist at Humanist, a culture-change agency that helps transform people for business success. Previously, she worked in human performance solution design, and advertising. She is a certified change manager (UCT), has a Bachelor’s degree in English (Wits), and has won several awards for her business writing, including a Silver Quill.

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