Perhaps a better way to think about it is this: 2014 will be the year that companies admit that they’ve got to get serious about understanding and leveraging culture. Some recent articles suggest that this attitude shift is happening.

In a recent article on McKinsey’s site, Martin Harrysson, Estelle Metayer and Hugo Sarrazin advocate for the valuing “weak signals” from social media and using them to spot coming industry and marketplace disruptions, as well as gaining insight into unspoken consumer needs. One of the ways companies can take advantage of these weak signals is to get senior leaders in the company actively involved in the social media sources from which these signals arise. They write, “Executives who are curious and attuned to the themes emerging from social media are more likely to spot such insights.”

Hold that thought.

Separately, on, brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn urges brands to stop following trends and focus on advancing movements. She writes:

Connect with the larger culture in ways that lead to more sustainable influence and impact. Try to determine where society is heading and explore how your brand can add value in ways that are aligned with that direction.

More importantly, she notes, “By seeking to advance cultural movements, you gain a real understanding of what’s going on in society and can consider whether the role your brand is playing should remain the same or how it should change.”

The McKinsey article leads to an inevitable question: How can you understand weak signals if you’re not broadly attuned to what’s happening outside the walls of your company? Of course, you can’t. However, imagine that impact of having someone with broad business experience at a senior level in the company and who has the authority to act on–at least explore–the potential of these weak signals. Now imagine you had more than one such person in your organization. You’re looking at a more responsive company.

Then you could, as Yohn suggests, be better able to advance movements. Maybe we’d even get to a point where brand show cultural leadership. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

While it still has a long way to go, contemporary culture is on the rise within organization. Still to be determined: How will companies organize to manage the flow of culture into their organizations? What are the new skill sets they’ll need in executives in order to gain competitive advantage?

Ah, the possibilities and the opportunities!

Posted by Rob Fields

Observer. Curator. Marketer. Dot connector.