This past weekend was magical for me, and I still feel like I’m walking on clouds and diamonds. Why? Because I saw my favorite band, Rush in concert from the 7th row center. To top it off, Erin, my precious friend of twenty-one years and a relatively new Rush fan, came with me. While Erin may be only one-year old in her Rush journey, she has come a long way in that short time. She randomly quotes Rush on a regular basis, owns most of the albums, and obsessively watches their live videos on You Tube. When you put us together we reach ridiculous levels of Rush nerdiness.
We are not alone.
Rush fans are known in the music world for being extremely devoted and loyal. There’s even a fan convention in Rush’s hometown of Toronto whenever the group plays that city. When you attend Rush concerts, you see t-shirts from twenty years ago on fans that have been seeing the band since the 1970’s. I myself have been listening to them since I was fifteen. You can talk to almost any concertgoer at a show because you have your love of Rush in common.
While at the show this weekend something occurred to me:
Rush is a culture, no doubt about it.
If you examine this premise, many of the ingredients for a culture lie within Rush’s inner circle.
a) Language: If you are unfamiliar with Rush, try having a conversation with a hard core fan. You won’t understand 70% of what they say. When Erin and I were in St. Louis for the concert, we had to apologize to my family who lives there for all of the Rush references and lingo. They looked at us with that endearing look, a combination of love and sympathy.
b) Protectionism: If you do not like Rush, try telling that to a fan. And then try sleeping with one eye open at night. Rush fans are very protective of their musical heroes.
c) Symbolism: The culture of Rush has many symbols that fans would recognize, but those outside of Rush’s “borders” may not, such as their logos over the years, album covers, and the red star and man from 2112. How many people know what I’m talking about?
d) Shared values: Rush fans often say that part of why they love Rush lies beyond the music, beyond the lighted stage. They admire the members of Rush as people. They value the band’s integrity, focus on intelligence and reason, authenticity, and devotion to musical craftsmanship.
e) Organizational structure: Rush keeps an updated website, a Facebook page, mobile applications, and many other ways to stay in touch with fans. These methods of communication keep fans highly involved in the culture of Rush.
Now, why am I writing about a rock band in my company blog? Because a very important message lurks behind my Rush obsession – culture is everywhere, even in the places we would never look.
When people in organizations talk about culture these days, their main focus goes to differences across international boundaries. Those same people might even recognize the cultural differences across domestic borders, such as states, or even departments within their organization.
But what other cultures exist within our sphere, and are we aware of how we practice inclusion or exclusion with people outside of those cultures?
Let’s take a case from the business world. A client of mine hired some people from Central America to work in the US. Their job was to help Spanish-speaking customers and serve accounts from Spanish-speaking countries. Those employees had a direct purpose for speaking Spanish in the office. When I held a team session with the whole group, however, tensions came forward about language. Some of the US-born native English speakers felt comfortable with Spanish being spoken in the office, but some felt highly uncomfortable. They felt excluded and afraid, although they expressed those fears as a need to have a common business language.
We could react and say that the people who fear other languages need to develop their cross-cultural skills. Perhaps that’s true. But a more effective response would be to try and understand the deeper root cause of those fears, to examine inclusion and exclusion with a mindful eye. Human beings are constantly deciding what to let in and what to keep out; this is natural. Sometimes, however, we are not deciding out of choice, but rather a lack of awareness.
I invite you to look around your environment and your sphere. What cultures reside there? What are the attributes of those cultures? How are you including or excluding outsides to that culture?
I look forward to hearing your interpretations and experiences.
If you like Rush, let me know. We’ll get together and talk about Clockwork Angels and the National Midnight Star!
Stay tuned for part two of The Culture of Rush.