That’s hashtag Harlem Shake for those of you who haven’t yet had the life sucked out of you by the infinite black vortex that is Twitter yet.
Why does this stuff happen? Why in the world does nonsense like this get started at all, let alone spread all over the place like this and any other number of similar things. I’m looking at you, Mr. Gangnam.
I mean, it’s stupid, right? These are grown adults that aren’t acting like it. Talk about being unprofessional–this is the epitome of it. It’s appalling, really, to see what a time and energy suck this has been on workplaces across the country.
I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course; but as I’m sure you know, there’s been some healthy debate about whether or not this particular expression of creativity and teamwork is appropriate for the workplace.
…and shortly thereafter, my awesome teammates at Mazuma created what you saw at the top of this post. Obviously, I and the rest of the exec team at Mazuma immediately reprimanded them and informed them that as a result of their foolishness we were taking away all future lunch breaks and instructing their families to love them less.
Yeah right. At Mazuma, we’re soooooo far from perfect; but we are working hard to continue on a trajectory of aligning everything around a set of cultural values. Like any other clump of humans, we stumble and screw stuff up along the way; but we’re in this for the long haul. We want to create an environment within which Team Mazuma can be themselves and exude their positive, fun sides (and no, that doesn’t mean we want a bunch of people who act exactly alike).
So what happened when we got wind of the Team making the video? We laughed. Out loud even. Or, we LOL‘d. It was awesome. It was our culture in action. They were demonstrating three of our core values: they were being positive and fun, they were working together in a collaborative way, and they were using creative expression. These Mazumans, who are dead-set on making Kansas City a better place to live and work, put their creative and collaborative powers to work and as a result added a little bit of happiness to others’ days.
There are lots of folks in the business world shaking their collective heads at all of this; but really, it makes sense when you think about it. Stuff like the Harlem Shake points back to something, doesn’t it? It reminds us that we’re–brace for non-brilliant insight–human beings.
That’s right. We’re human beings, each with our own unique wiring, our own version of creativity, our own perspectives, our own personalities, and our own potential. Yet at the same time, there are some basic things that most human beings seem to want, even need. That’s why culture is so important.
The Harlem Shake isn’t just about the Harlem Shake. It points to truths that are much bigger and more important. It’s another reminder of some of the reasons culture matters:
1. Human beings crave legit community.
We want to belong. There aren’t many psychologists who would disagree with that sentiment. Culture and community are undeniably interrelated. These videos aren’t made by a bunch of random strangers. They’re made by teammates and humans who have built community and enough trust to be absolutely crazy with each other and share it with others.
2. Human beings like to collaborate.
I’m not saying Vanilla Ice was right, but…
A lot of times, if you did stuff all on your own, you’d look like a crazy person; but somehow, if it’s a group situation, it doesn’t feel as crazy. Or maybe you’re just more OK with the crazy. Either way, we’re drawn to working with others to make something that we couldn’t have made on our own. Leaders have a responsibility to provide an environment conducive to collaboration.
3. Human beings don’t want to only think at work.
I’ve said it so many times at Mazuma that they probably want to smack my bald head, but too often workplaces make people feel like they have to check their humanness and all that it entails–positive emotion, feelings, joy, zeal, zest, passion, excitement, etc–at the back door.
I don’t know how else to say it really. It’s essentially asking people to be partial people from the hours of 8 to 5. Why not let them do things that engage more than just their minds? With apologies to all the quantitative-data-only folks, people need to feel the culture more. Give them room to tap into themselves. Provide a safe space for them to come out of that protective shell that’s been formed over the years for any number of reasons.
Culture matters because people matter, and culture resonates most when people both feel it and feel part of it.