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Cultural Brilliance

Book Review: ‘Cultural Brilliance’ by Claudette Rowley

In the opening of her new book, Cultural Brilliance: The DNA of Organizational Excellence, culture expert and business catalyst Claudette Rowley paints a vision of what the business world could be. “We have the intelligence, knowledge, technology, and capability to create a world that brings out the best in organizations and allows people to live in fairness, greater harmony, and opportunity,” she reasons. “Why would we choose anything else?”

Indeed, why would we?

Rowley wrote Cultural Brilliance to nudge—and enable—businesses to make this choice. A three-part guide, Cultural Brilliance sets out to help businesses create proactive and innovative workplace cultures that reclaim lost business potential, without sacrificing profitability, revenue generation, or innovation. While these sound like lofty claims, Rowley delivers.

Rowley is an expert in workplace culture, having spent nearly 20 years helping Fortune 500 executives and teams, universities, and newly hatched startups resolve complex organizational problems. Her clientele is noteworthy, including well-known, prestigious organizations such as Medtronic, MIT, and Harvard University.

The end goal for these clients, and for readers of Cultural Brilliance, is what Rowley calls a “brilliant culture.” Brilliant cultures respond to change and challenges in ways that actually decrease stress, inspire learning, and promote organizational health, Rowley explains. They thrive because they are based on adaptability.

Culture is much “like standing in the middle of a swimming pool,” Rowley describes. “Every minute of each day the culture in your organization is evolving and you are immersed in it.” It only takes a step or two of logic to realize that all of this shifting and adapting—to meet market demands or to better your organization—is a prime currency in today’s business market, making brilliant cultures a must-have.

Unlike other books on culture, which tend to gloss over actionable steps, Cultural Brilliance is a meticulously detailed guide. In fact, one might even call it a “culture bible.” It’s filled with science and studies that back Rowley’s assertions and a blueprint to assess your organization’s unique needs as you design, test, and implement a new cultural system.

Flipping through the book’s pages, a distinct theme emerges: brilliant cultures are, at their core, rooted in psychological safety. They’re about creating a safe environment to hash out ideas without judgment. To provide feedback without fear of retribution.

To spark innovative problem-solving. Rowley calls this creating a Cultural Safety Zone. Based on study after study of employee priorities and workplace worries, Rowley’s take is spot-on.

Cultural Brilliance avoids cookie-cutter advice by smartly including a series of steps and questions, in each chapter, to guide readers through a customized cultural design. Some questions are foundational, such as “What mindsets, behaviors, and structures do you want to bring forward?” But others tackle complex ideas, such as “What are cultural subsystems and how do they interact with each other?”

Many of Rowley’s topics are clearly forward-thinking, such as “What practical coaching, training, or skills-building will people need to do to be successful and aligned with the new cultural design?” Rowley guides readers through next steps, based on their responses, as she sets them up for success.

The last chapters in the book are geared toward leaders, who have specific hurdles to overcome when it comes to culture. Rowley tackles how to recognize and cure culture blindness, how to “listen to what you hear,” and become a culture whisperer.

Altogether, Cultural Brilliance is an indispensable tool for existing companies and new enterprises alike. As Rowley herself states, “This book is a journey and I’m your guide.”

To learn more about Claudette Rowley and her new book, Cultural Brilliance, visit her website.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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