I have read the best management book ever! It was also my first and I don't think I'll be reading a second one anytime soon. But what a book, The corporate tribe. Maybe it should have a 'Definitely not just for managers' sticker alongside the 'Management Book of the Year 2016' sticker. It is a treat for anyone who works with other people and, like me, occasionally wonders: what on earth is going on here?
Red Bull moments
It will be my lack of business or communication background, but I black out when it comes to organisational goals and strategies. Lift us up then, I think when the discussion on raison d'être is too long and deep. It makes me heavy and despondent and I have to press my nails into my palms to keep from falling asleep. Re-listening to the radio play Het Bureau van Voskuil does not help me see the value of organisations and offices either. Main character Maarten Koning thinks his job is nonsense, a job to keep highly educated people off the streets. Real work, that is putting your shovel in the ground and growing vegetables.
Fortunately, I myself have concrete work at the Cyclists' Union. Behind the computer admittedly, no carrot grows harder from it, but my job as a cross-media editor is to tell people stories, entertain and inform them, which is essentially an ancient profession that fulfils a primal need and thus makes a lot of sense. Besides, all my life I have loved the bicycle terribly as both a thing and a tool.
PDPs and PAPs
It wasn't until recently that I had to do it. As a member of the application committee for our new team head of communications, I was reading candidates' recommendations and strategies for the coming years and wondered: Where do you get that from? What don't I know that you do? On the rebound, I read a book on communication strategies and was actually enlightened quite quickly. 'Arguments are less and less decisive,' I read. 'What is rationally best need not be motivating at all', and further that you could try to change people with a whip, peen or sermon. Turns out you also have all sorts of coloured organisations with or without POPs and PAPs and all those things that never give me a warm feeling. Just give me a campfire and I'm not the only one. See The corporate tribe.
Gold tooth or private room?
Once I The corporate tribe had bought, I haven't touched that other book on communication with a finger. The corporate tribe looks beautiful to begin with, with pictures of a gamer, Indian wedding, uncanny underground, monks and a Japanese rice field that at first glance have nothing in common. Again, something different from mere organograms. And it is not just the pictures that are evocative. The language is clear and concrete with telling examples that make connections between corporate cultures and tribal societies.
For example, between Nomadic cultures and nomadic working. 'Working remotely difficult? Nomads have been doing it for centuries.' Nomads do not have prestigious houses, just as nomadic workers do not have large rooms of their own from which you can tell who is a director and who is not, but status differences still have to be visible in something. Nomads do this by wearing expensive necklaces or having gold teeth fitted. The prestige of nomadic workers can be increased by invitations to exclusive meetings and gatherings. Tip from The corporate tribe: don't skimp on festive gatherings and then complain that nobody comes. Make employees want to attend at all costs. Touaregs travel weeks for an annual meeting, so it must be worthwhile.
The Haka dance of the Maoris in New Zealand in which dancers show their strength and leadership illustrates in The corporate tribe The attitude of a leader in the Netherlands. What do you recognise him or her by? How does he or she behave? In Asia, a leader is introverted and characterised by self-control in conflicts.
Ritual desk burning
Anthropologists Danielle Braun and Jitske Kramer draw inspiration from officeless peoples around the world to better understand how cultures arise, sustain and change. Their story is about campfires, burning former directors' desks because no one dares to sit in their old room, about how physical space affects our behaviour, what you can already see at a glance when you walk into an office, and it is about ancestors, totems and the importance of the founding story.
Perhaps the most important message is: don't pretend there is no culture and the way we work and organise ourselves is the only possible one. Learn from each other.
For people who once studied anthropology (like me), the book is additionally a feast of recognition. Hi Trobianders! Yoohoo, joking relationship and hello Dogon!