Cultural Paradoxes in the Digital World

February 3, 2020

It is a fact that the speed of the digital world only accelerate. The sensation that the time passes faster in the current days is real from the subjective point of view. Time is faster because the perceived context is simply more intense, ample and complex than the human being cognitive capacity in processing so many structureless information.

As technology advances faster in intelligent algorithms and digital automation, the artificial intelligence becomes more ubiquitous and imperceptible, gigantic amounts of data are generated and integrated, the biological capacity of the human brain becomes increasingly obsolete in these synapses.

The apocalyptic vision would affirm that the humanity is with its  days counted. Particularly, I still believe that nature normally do not jump, being slower than the technology, however consistent throughout the time in its organic process of adaptation at the same time that preserves stability of the living organism. The humanity, in my perception, will be successful throughout the journey, but for sure not in the current configuration.

And what will be the destination of the organizations in the singularity?

It is already a common place to affirm that companies need to be increasingly innovative, connected to ecosystems, flexible in its business-oriented models, agile in its performances.

However, the psychosocial phenomenon inherent to the cultural formation process of a company does not occur in the same speed of a flash. In my most recent book, ANTHESIS, I had the chance to present the most diverse aspects of the development of the organizational essence from its beginning until occasional end, from its crystallization until the occasional transformation. I have stated that the organizational dynamics is necessarily a political and semiotic coordinated interaction by dominant leaderships to assure group cohesion on a shared purposed.

It is truth that the process of an organizational development is not as slow as the evolution process of nature and, very possibly, as the process of governmental and institutional paradigms change.  It is easy to compare the sped up velocity of a fast-food company in relation to an Amazonian bioma or the Christian paradigms – it is compared years/decades with millennia or centuries.

On the other hand, this exactly process of organizational development is not as fast as the cycles of transformation directed by technology and science, and not even to the ephemeral cycles of fashion. Here is, therefore, the real challenge of organizations.

How to assure culture integrity of a company in face of such volatility?

Culture searches its integrity in the stability of the internal organism, protecting it from the external dynamics of the environment and, at the same time, assuring permeability of the organism by means of sensors and decoders of these external dynamics. The organizational culture of a group talks exactly about the way of being, thinking and making things of these congregated people in favor of common objectives and shared principles.

The organizational culture - and in its own extrapolation, the social culture - is an essentially human phenomenon, nothing technological. It is in the social interactions, cerebral human feelings, and cerebral synapses. It is not susceptible to the automation by the algorithms in the cloud and to the fashion of the time.

The imperative challenge seems to be exactly in this dichotomy  between the slow psychosocial dynamics of organizational culture and the fluid rapidity of the digital contexts. The social organism will never reach the digital speed, as well as nature has never reached the organizational speed. Nature and organizations are both subjects to the pendular and cyclical movements, never in perfect static balance, but incapable of speeding up indefinitely its adaptability to the external shocks. There are limits in the speed of adaptation of the internal organism to external shocks - and when such limit is constantly surpassed, the organization loses tenacity, compromising its own survival in long term.

We have, thus, the paradoxes of culture in the digital world:

1 Integrity versus flexibility

2 Consistency versus agility

3 Paradigms versus opening

4 Institutional versus ephemerality

5 Coordination versus complexity

The critical reflection to be made in the scope of shareholders, advisor members and managers seems to be exactly these digital cultural paradoxes.

It is true that the humanity has already witnessed some other moments of social turbulences and scientific-technological revolutions. Let us imagine, for example, the impact of the industrial revolutions in the sprouting of great enterprises between the XVIII and the XX Centuries. Innumerable changes in the enterprise paradigms had occurred in the course of these events, and keep occurring in the light of the continuous alterations of the external context.

However, we are here dealing with intensity and amplitude of the phenomenon. And under such optics, it seems to be really incredible what we are experiencing in the new digital context. Therefore, the organizational construction of the XX Century is in check.


Daniel Motta is the Founder and CEO of BMI Blue Management Institute, a leading niche consulting firm. He is a global thought leader focused on culture, strategy and leadership. He has a PhD in Economics, MSc in Financial Economics and BA in Economics. He is also an OPMer from Harvard Business School. He is the Managing Director of USA-based VC company White Fox Capital and the Senior Tupinambá Maverick of bossa&etc. He was a co-founder of Brazilian Society of Finance. He currently serves NGO UNIBES as Strategic Planning Principal. He is the author of the best selling books Essential Leadership and book Anthesis. He also has three articles published by Harvard Business Review. He is a Board Member of MASP.