Blog Home
Written By
June 06, 2013

Culture Trumps Bad Leadership

June 06, 2013

I recently took an Italian holiday with my family and a few friends, spending about half our time as Roman tourists and the other half living with an Italian family in the countryside south of Rome. I won’t bore you with the details of our adventures, but suffice it to say it was a completely immersive experience.

Italian Piazza Panorama

Two observations of Italian culture were completely contradictory and got me thinking:

  1.     The Roman government has allowed the city and its historical treasures to slip into disrepair.
  2.     The Italian people have perpetuated a culture of familial bliss and welcoming tourists.

Here’s how this plays out:

Rome has long been littered with graffiti, but the lack of care for national treasure blew my mind. Here’s an example: While wandering through the Roman forum near the Colosseum, we stumbled upon a huge “garden” full of weeds. Wait, didn’t we pay $30 euro for this? Where is our money going? The weed garden afternoon is really a metaphor for the current state of the Italian economy...

Corruption > Economic Inequality > Lack of Entrepreneurship > Fewer Jobs > Brain Drain

And on and on down the line. Get this.. 36% of college grads are currently unemployed with little hopes for opportunity due to crazy pensions offered to older workers by the Italian government. Tis a true bummer, but the point is: the economy is in really bad shape, which should have cultural implications for the Italian people. BUT THEY ARE STILL AWESOME!

During our stay in rural Campoleone with our Italian familia, it was immediately apparent how joyful the typical Italian lifestyle is. Our 9 month old, Calvin, was passed around the entire neighborhood, meals are shared amongst extended families & neighbors almost every day, everyone we met had something meaningful to share with us... hospitality was the theme of this leg of the trip.

Enough set up, here’s the core concept I discovered:

The Italian people are brand ambassadors, creating fantastic experiences for tourists and each other which has kept the tourism industry afloat.

The conundrum I can’t get past is: why do this when there is no economic incentive? The answer: because this is ingrained in their familial culture.

The takeaway here is that the culture of a city, country or even organization has lasting implications on the experience users will have. Even when leadership changes and poor decisions are made, the culture will prevail in creating great experiences because that is what the people know best.

Being intentional about fostering this culture will create muscle memory for the brand ambassadors who are on the front lines and consistency for the user. This won’t last forever, but it’s clearly a long term play that has lasting potential for awesome.

Have you seen examples of this here in the US? In cities, organizations, schools?

Related Posts

Aug 26, 2016