Culture Shock: A Handbook for 21st Century Business

Culture Shock cover

Author: Will McInnes

Review by Sam Zubaidi

Gore Associates, best known for its GORE-TEX fabric, will only ever build factories that house 150 workers. What to do if more staff are needed for expansion? Build another factory, to house a maximum of 150 workers. This way, everyone knows each other and a spirit of co-operation remains. Gore’s annual sales exceed $3bn.

In Culture Shock, McInnes highlights examples of dehumanising ways of running businesses, while championing alternative approaches. These cover employee happiness, the environment, society and profitability.

Employee involvement in decision-making is suggested as a particularly strong tool to increase empowerment and lower staff turnover. The most basic model of which involves a one person, one vote system. With this model, a motion passes when an agreed percentage of votes is reached.

Slightly more complex is sociocracy, where company members organise themselves into teams, or ‘circles’, based on the shared tasks they perform, eg marketing or accountancy. Then, through what’s known as ‘double linking’, each member moves to another circle in the chain to gain and give a different perspective on the business. In this model, individual roles and policy decisions are decided by consent, ie only when no member of the group holds any concerns that they feel they ‘couldn’t live with’.

One reason McInnes puts forward to explain the necessity and power of such processes is that company workforces are increasingly made up of Generation Y – young people who’ve been taught to ask “why?” and not just accept mandates from authority.

McInnes guides us on a journey starting with purpose and meaning, through democracy and empowerment via other pertinent topics, to finish with fair finances. The book is informally written but authoritative, and I’ve already used some of the pointers in my own business.

Sam Zubaidi is the founder of Price Pie