I have just returned from a sensational month traveling around Italy – one of my personal goals is to get overseas at least once a year to explore a new country and culture and for 2013 I got a taste of Italy!
As a whole the Italians are famous for their expressive and exuberant culture, they are known for being passionate about life, love, food and wine. Generalising, Italians are known to be “larger than life” more outspoken than reserved, more extrovert than introvert, more people than task oriented. Generally speaking of course… Well after my month abroad I could agree that all of these things would be fair to say, from a macro view. However, delve a little deeper by traveling from big city to rural town, meet the locals and you start to experience much more variety and complexity in both the people and the culture.
One of the first things people asked upon my return was “what was the highlight?” and my answer to that question got me thinking. WOW – there were so many highlights and every region had something special and unique to offer. I loved the rush of Rome and was completely overwhelmed by the grandeur of the Colosseum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, not to mention the excess of art in Vatican City. Rome seemed a city of strength, power, status and prestige, much like Venice it is built on tourism and English is the language you hear most often, however Venice had an altogether different feel. The audacious city built on a swamp had more of a hedonistic culture that celebrates love, romance, indulgence and celebration.
My Italian was not really tested until I got to some of the more regional towns like Lucca and Perugia and the interesting thing was that whilst language was a much greater barrier connecting to the people came easier, did culture play a part? Both Lucca and Perugia had a culture that seemed to be centred on an appreciation for good food, community spirit, and personal relationships. My last leg of the journey took me to Positano a breath taking coastal village built on a mountains edge! Perhaps it was because I was there on the end of the busy season, but to me the culture seemed to be all about going slow and taking time to worship the sun and appreciate the small things. These are just a few of the places I visited, the energy and atmosphere of town touched me in a different but equally awesome way.
I got me thinking… like Italy, organisations have a variety of micro cultures that make the “general culture” and the struggle to break down silo’s and “get everyone on the same page” is not uncommon. My travels provided time to reflect… maybe it’s time to be more proactive in identifying and celebrating the diverse micro cultures within our organisations and recognise that much like Italy – some towns and city have over 1,000 years of history that still to this day has influence on current culture. And whilst they do all add up to create the overall exuberant and passionate culture that Italy is so rightly known for… Every region has something uniquely special to contribute! Perhaps I am under the influence of my time away, and I could be idealistic… but… is celebrating micro cultures a possible solution to breaking down silos?