Listening to Prof. Edgar Schein's** talk about Exploring Culture through Humble Inquiry I suddenly remembered about The Curtain, a book of essays written by Milan Kundera. Kundera quotes Lord Arthur Neville Chamberlain describing Czechoslovakia as a "A faraway country of which we know little" . The year was 1938 and Lord Chamberlain, after negotiations with Hitler, agreed that Britain will not intervene when Germany will invade the Czechs a few days later." In Munich", writes Kundera, "in the Autumn of 1938, the big four, Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, negotiated the destiny of a small country to which they have denied even the right to talk".
I am born and raised in another small and even more "faraway country" called Romania and this is one of the reasons for which Prof. Schein' concept of humble inquiry, going from the leaders toward those whom he/she leads, has resonated with me. Humble Inquiry means making myself vulnerable and empowering the other to let me know what kind of help they want, says Edgar Schein.
Until very recently organizational cultures have roughly mimicked the power structure and interaction between nations, as defined at the beginning of the century: rigid hierarchy, with very strict rules and an exclusivist negotiations. Leaders were thought to be these all-powerful men (because they were all men) who should not bother to communicate down the chain with their employees.
In the same essay (The Curtain) Kundera writes also about "provincialism of big and small nations", defined as the inability to see another culture as a potential collaborator, because it is perceived as either "too small" (and therefore an insignificant "player"), either "too big" (=rich & famous) to be interested in others.
It seems thought that the system is changing quite a bit. Big & famous is not a requirement and not even a guarantee of success. All that one needs to build a multi-million company is a fresh, great idea, a laptop and an internet connection. Globalization has reached a level of complexity that increases exponentially, leading to multicultural teams that use crowdsourcing and marketing to create amazing businesses. The culture of these organizations consists in a complex system of cells, connected by feedback loops. If intelligence is defined as the ability to adapt optimally to new conditions of the environment, then the organizational culture of the entrepreneurs is precisely that: an intelligent network of mindful people who are doing business with purpose.
New forms of power distribution and leadership are promoted by entrepreneurs and their Startups. The concept of inquiring with humbleness, specifically when one is in the position of power, is one of the ways in which millennials are disrupting the current organizational structures.