Soren Kaplan
Culture and Experiential Learning

Rapid learning is important, and seeing that there is no such thing as failure. That doesn’t mean you don’t fail. It just means you see failure as an opportunity to learn.

Soren Kaplan
Listen Now
Show Notes

Culture is a buzzword many of us don’t know how to define. Award-winning and best-selling author Dr. Soren Kaplan(@Dr.SorenKaplan) has made it one of his missions to educate individuals and companies on how to be a high-level cooperative culture. Dr. Kaplan is a columnist for Inc Magazine and an affiliate at The Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He’s led strategy and innovation at HP, Hewlett Packard. And advises and delivers leadership programs to thousands of executives around the world. 

Best-selling author of the groundbreaking book Experiential Intelligence Dr. Soren Kaplan (@Dr.SorenKaplan) has found that everyone has dormant gifts that can be utilized in the workplace. Soren’s work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company, CNBC, NPR, Strategy & Leadership, The International Handbook on Innovation, and many other academic and popular business media. At the age of 13, he won the first-ever video game contest on the Commodore 64 computer. 

Create mentoring opportunities, create an innovation team. You don’t want just the season people on it. You want the young, new, you know, kind of up-and-comers in it. And that diversity of age as well and experience is also important.”

Dr. Soren Kaplan

Key Takeaways:

  • Cross-Generational Mentorship: There is a huge exodus of people in their 60s leaving the workforce that takes a vast amount of skills and knowledge with them. It is important for companies and individuals to rethink the retirement and onboarding of new talent. The wise thing to do is pair the older generations with the younger ones through mentorship and coaching so that the skills and knowledge of those leaving the workforce get passed down.  
  • Defining Culture: Culture can be an amorphous term. Culture is, at its root, the norms and values that shape behavior. And those norms and values oftentimes fly under the radar. Defining or creating culture is a simple cycle; People have experiences, and those experiences shape their beliefs about right or wrong behavior. These beliefs shape people’s behavior. Leaders can intervene and create new and different experiences for people and allow the art of communication, discovery, and interaction to lead the team to define their culture.
  • Going Deep Increases Productivity: Whether we are aware of it or not, we all bring our whole selves to work. In order to increase productivity letting go of the old model of compartmentalizing who you are or have to be at work is liberating and increases productivity. Many people have hidden abilities and talents that are not listed on their resumes. Getting to know the people you work with or work for and their untapped abilities increases creativity and job retention. 
  • Experiential Learning: In essence, we all have to practice coping while growing up. The street or social smarts we develop as we live build skills that can be applied to that 10,000 Hour Rule, whether we’re doing formal or informal stuff. This experiential learning is an opportunity to acknowledge informal skills that get overlooked. And companies can leverage them if they let go of some of the old rules of what an applicant should have on their resume.


You can now save 20% on monthly deliveries and 10% on one-time purchases. Visit www.getkion.com/divine 


Visit https://www.sanebox.com/divine today to start your free trial and get a $25 credit.


Vuori is an investment in your happiness. For our listeners, they are offering 20% off your first purchase. Get yourself some of the most comfortable and versatile clothing on the planet at https://vuoriclothing.com/. Show Code: DIVINE.

Links for Dr. Soren Kaplan:



Experiential Intelligence Book 

Mark Divine  0:00  

Hi, this is Mark Divine, and this is the Mark Divine Show. On this show, I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational and compassionate resilient leaders. I love speaking to folks from all walks of life, Stoic philosophers and startup entrepreneurs, and people who guide culture to be extraordinary, like my guest today, Dr. Soren Kaplan. Dr. Kaplan is an award-winning, best-selling author, and columnist for Inc Magazine affiliate at The Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business. And he’s led strategy and innovation at HP, Hewlett Packard. And advises and delivers leadership programs to thousands of executives around the world. Organizations such as Disney and NBC Universal, Visa, PayPal, Kimberly Clark, and others. Something he’s most proud of when he was 13, he won the first-ever video game contest on the Commodore 64 computer. Wow, I remember that thing. Dr. Kaplan, I’m so excited to have you on the show today. 

Mark Divine 0:55

Soren, I’m so stoked to have you here on the Mark Divine Show. Nice to meet you.



Dr. Soren Kaplan  0:58  

Great to be here, Mark. Thanks for having me.Mark Divine  1:00  

Yeah, I’m super stoked. I know you did a lot at SoCal and USC. And now you’re up in Seattle, or you said, you said, split time between San Fran and Seattle, two very interesting cities, by the way, which we might want to come back there and talk about because that in itself is a whole leadership discussion. But what were your, some of your like formative influences, help listeners understand, you know, what shaped Sorenn and and led you into kind of the path you’re on today?

Dr. Soren Kaplan  1:23  

Yeah, I mean, formal educations, organizational psychology. So how do teams and organizations work effectively together? A lot of that’s leadership. But I’ve worked with probably 30 of the Fortune 1000 and worked with 10s of 1000s of leaders around the world, worked with Disney, and Colgate and Visa, and many, many others globally. But you know, part of my own personal experience, like I grew up with not a lot of resources and mother who had a mental illness, father, barely around. I moved 15 times before I was about 15 years old.

Mark Divine 1:55

Holy cow.


Dr. Soren Kaplan 1:56

The things that really shaped me early on were like learning how to live with ambiguity and uncertainty and work with limited data to make decisions. And so I’ve applied those things in my work. And in my in my leadership development, work, and culture change work.


Mark Divine 2:15



Dr. Soren Kaplan 2:!5

So my personal experience, and you know, kind of the intelligence I developed because of those early experiences I use today. And that’s kind of led me to what I do today as well.


Mark Divine  2:27  

But anyone who grows up in chaos and uncertainty, you know, and that kind of trauma develops great sensitivity. They’re very aware of what’s going on in your environment. So that’s, of course, think about a Navy SEAL being really, really aware, right? So that’s a very powerful gift, you develop a certain kind of toughness and resilience, you know, a greediness that where it doesn’t matter what people throw at you, or what society throws at you, you just like, bring it on. It I can’t possibly be any worse than what I had, you know, when I was 12, or whatever.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  2:57  

In my example, living with a mother who was very unpredictable, I learned to read body language and facial expressions, you know, I can be in a room facilitating 100 people and read the room, like really well, and I have an awareness of that kind of subtle languaging. That’s happening all the time.


Mark Divine 3:14



Dr. Soren Kaplan 3:15

But everybody has that. And so you don’t have to have big traumas, either.


Mark Divine 3:18



Dr. Soren Kaplan 3:18

I mean, you can have, there’s gonna be little things that shape you that give you sensitivities. And you know, it’s really the essence of it is we all have practice coping, growing up. And you know, the street smarts that we develop, and you know, the skills we build for that 10,000 Hour Rule, whether we’re doing a formal thing, or we’re doing informal stuff. And that’s really, I think, what we all have an opportunity to leverage if we get in touch with it. I mean, it’s one thing to know we have it because it’s just kind of a knee-jerk reaction, and we’re able to survive, it’s another to be self-aware of what those things are that you’ve developed and really leveraged them.


Mark Divine  3:55  

Yeah, that’s the key point, because you can’t not be them. Because that’s the sum total of our conditioning. And so every, every, everywhere we show up, that’s what we show up with. But what you’re saying is becoming aware of those, and then leveraging that term leverage means probably like bringing out the best in them or utilizing them in a different way.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  4:16  

Yeah. So if you’re, you know, I’ve recognized that I’m pretty good at reading body language and kind of understanding subtle assumptions and kind of group behavior and dynamic. So I’ve done a lot of culture change work in organizations because you’ve got to decipher stuff that is kind of below the surface. And so the trick is to look at your experiences and understand what they gave you. That might have been, you know, challenging at the time, but they instilled some things in you. And those can be, you know, how you think your mindsets that can be, you know, higher order abilities, or kind of rote skills, whatever they may be, be aware of that and then think about how based on what you want to do or your goal is just how do you leverage those things to take yourself to the next level.


Mark Divine  5:01  

I love that you’re trying to coin this as XQ, or experiential quotient I think that’s really cool, it is a capability set similar to IQ or EQ. You know, I’ve done therapy for years, and so that’s one way, right. I can see that it’d be effective, that kind of understanding what you know what some of the experiences of your life could be…


Dr. Soren Kaplan 5:20



Mark Divine 5:20

Involved in harm or harm or help you but, you know, what’s a less intimidating way that, you know, someone could really discover some of these gifts?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  5:28  

Yeah, you know, not everybody wants to do therapy, and you don’t have to do therapy. I mean, like, at the most basic level, we just role model, what it’s about. I mean, what what are the most poignant experiences that you’ve had that you think shaped you in some way or had an impact on you? Just list them off? And then list off, how did it change how you think? Or what are those messages that kind of it’s instilled upon you because of whatever was going on. So it’s your mindset. So how did that how do I think now based on this? And what are those things that I then developed as abilities? I mean, I look at it as like a little table that you list off and rows, your experiences and those stuff. How do you think and what are the abilities you developed, it’s as simple as that for an individual. And then you can do that with your team. Also, if you’re leading a team, if everybody inventories kind of what they have as assets, not just from their on their resume, but from their life, you actually realize we’re all bringing stuff that is underutilized. And that as a collective really represents our competencies and our capabilities. So that’s an individual level or a team level. And it’s not rocket science.


Mark Divine  6:36  

No, that it’s so important, you know, studies have shown how diversity and not just diversity of skin color or you know, other factors, external factors. But diversity of ideas is really beneficial, right. And like, if you were to compare three different organizational types, one is totally homogeneous. One is diverse, but not inclusive, you’re not allowed, allowing inclusiveness with ideas. And then diversity with inclusive as homogeneous actually outperforms diversity without inclusiveness, but diversity with inclusivness outperforms all three or the other two. And I think that this idea that you’re getting at is trying to look at within a team, like what is the unique about everybody? And then how do we include that in the conversation? That’s powerful stuff,


Dr. Soren Kaplan  7:21  

it’s powerful. And the thing is, is like, our experiences, we start having them from the moment we’re born. Society has, people have always had experiences, this is not new stuff. You know, the idea that, you know, this kind of concept of experiential intelligence, we’ve had ways to think about IQ, How smart are you intellectually. Emotional intelligence came on the scene 30 or 40 years ago, and you know, we kind of have the sense that emotions, if we’re in touch with our own, and we’re not, you know, kind of super reactive, or we can empathize with others, that’s gives us a leg up. But how do we think about the experiences that we have given us those assets that complement those things, so it’s not like to replace what we think is intelligence, but, you know, we all know those people who know how to navigate the world, they’re, you know, in various ways, they’re good at in certain situations, and maybe not, or they’re, you know, they’ve learned how to live with ambiguity, or they’ve learned how to be really detail oriented and get stuff done. So if we can build teams that recognize kind of the softer, more underlying abilities of people, and I say soft, it doesn’t mean it can be about math. but the idea is that we understand the diversity of abilities people have because of the usually the diversity of experiences. That’s a whole new way to look at diversity. And it’s an important way, in addition to all the other ways that we’ve been talking about, and you know, in present day.


Mark Divine  8:51  

I think the positive and productive way, one that doesn’t get into some of the more divisive issues, you know, around diversity, equity inclusion, which are really polarizing the way it’s been presented, you know, in a lot of cases. You’ve worked with 1000s of people, what are some of the more surprising ways that individuals or teams have kind of uncovered this EQ in themselves that maybe surprised them or even you? 


Dr. Soren Kaplan  9:15  

Yeah, I mean, just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a woman who I’ve worked with for many years. She just got named one of the top chief marketing officers in the world. 


Mark Divine 9:25



Dr. Soren Kaplan 9:25

She ran international marketing at Hershey. I was talking to her about her experiential intelligence, trying to share with her, like, what is this thing we’re talking about? And I said, you know, what allowed you to become one of the top CMOS in the world? And I said, think about the experiences you’ve had. And she said, Well, you know, that’s easy. I play the violin. And I’m like, what do you mean? And she said that she had become really excellent at something and she’s practiced the violin for years, but she also plays in an orchestra, where she has to take the lead sometimes times and then pull back sometimes, and then, you know, be part of a team, but also know kind of when to how to ebb and flow and let other people really shine and not be trying to take the limelight all the time. 

She didn’t hadn’t realized it until we were talking. But a lot of those things that she developed because she plays the violin and does it with people, she’s applying to be one of the top chief marketing officers in the world. And so you can look at those little surprising illustrations and then extrapolate, well, she’s good at certain things. So how does she use those things, then to take herself to the next level, and then maybe build certain capabilities in her team by demonstrating those things as well.


Mark Divine  10:45  

This takes a certain level of introspection or, you know, capacity, right? So most people who have a past orientation, they’re doing it, because they’ve they’ve had some catastrophes, and then they relive those catastrophes, which tends to then, you know, create kind of a negative rut. And most, I think business professionals are taught to kind of look forward. So how do we develop the skill to even slow down and do this, I know, you had your nice little chart there. And that’s fun for a facilitated practice, but most people aren’t going to go hire Soren’s company, you know, because we’re not, we’re not the size of fortune 1000, right, and we’re not gonna hire you. 


Dr. Soren Kaplan 11:20



Mark Divine 11:20

So what are some introspective capacities or skills that we can use to think deeply about this stuff?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  11:26  

Yeah, that little chart you can make yourself. So you know, I’m a big advocate. Just take an inventory of those things that you think impacted you in some way, positive or negative, and then look at what those impacts are. And if you do that with a spouse if you do that with a partner.


Mark Divine 11:42

Oh yeah.


Dr. Soren Kaplan 11:42

That’s a little bit safer, perhaps. The other thing is, like, you can do that with your team, I had, I had an organization 100 people in the room, three different departments under one kind of corporate group. And they had everybody walked in the room with three stories about the things that shaped them, as kind of professionals as people and professionals. And they broke up into small little groups and share the stories, and then extrapolated what the abilities were that that small group had in their team, and then shared it out. You had probably eight different groups in the room, all sharing this, this list of abilities that that table had. And then we extrapolated those abilities and said, wow, look at what exists in this organization. How do we leverage that to drive our strategy and innovate new products and services. 

And it was really empowering for folks. That’s something that if you’re a manager in a team, or you’re in a team, you just suggest, hey, let’s look at the things that we bring to the party that might fall outside of our resumes or what other people kind of know us it formally to bring. And, as a bonus, just talk about, you know, how did I develop those things? Did I go travel, you know, the world did I go to, you know, I traveled to India, and I learned a lot from that cross cultural experience right after college. You know, there’s just little stories that can bring to life, the humaneness of people while demonstrating, hey, I got some real skills, I can contribute here. So there’s very simple things that can be done. And of course, I can also go way deep because I, you know, I, I’ve gone deep as I’ve looked at myself, and I’ve helped others go deep, but you don’t have to go deep. You can keep it like kind of a high level if you will.


Mark Divine  13:25  

I could see how, again, there’s two parts to this, right? You’re really talking about understanding the the mental models or the map or, you know, the, what is the conditioning look like if you were to expose it to yourself, right? So what is the construct of Mark or Soren look like now. You know, the first part is let’s figure out how to leverage, you know, the positives of that. But then there’s another piece, right? Because there’s a lot of the sometimes traumas lead to suppression and projections and you know, that shadow element which had been unobjectified, right, no sudden you bring this to the surface, and that could trigger a lot of a lot of shit, right? So how do you handle that in a consulting environment?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  14:04  

So the first thing is, I recognize not everybody is wanting to or able, or their organizational culture is set up to do that. I wouldn’t push that on a culture that’s not, some people are ready, some are not or some want it, some don’t. And I think that’s important to understand your own organization and your own leadership, because there is a view that bringing your whole self to work is not something we want. Like even though we actually do bring our whole selves to work. 


Mark Divine 14:32

Yeah, yeah, you can’t not.


Dr. Soren Kaplan 14:32

You can’t not. But not everybody wants to address the things that are under the surface because there’s conflict or there’s pain or there’s uncomfortable feelings. Kind of out of the gate, I’d say, Do you want to go there not as an individual as a team as an organization, if you want to go there. Let’s look at that.


Mark Divine  14:54  

The irony though is that when you create the psychological safety for that to be okay, then the organization flourishes, right. That’s like Brene Brown’s work. And, you know, the whole work of Edmondson and psychological safety is like that’s create those conditions. And then, right, it’s okay to have those discussions and take your masks off and right? So if you’re saying at the outset of that your culture, you’re not a culture that allows that, then what you’re saying is you’re okay to limit, you know, productivity, you’re okay to limit right, growth. You’re okay to limit your organization.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  15:27  

I usually try to push people to make a conscious choice about that, you know, it’s like, Okay, I am going to limit myself, because I don’t want to go there. You know, it’s unfortunate, but it’s a choice, right?


Mark Divine  15:38  

And generally, how often is it the actual leader, you know, CEO, or executive team that that says, oh, no, we can’t go there. Because they haven’t gone there themselves.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  15:49  

I think it’s more frequent than we would like to think it is. Sometimes at the top, I worked with a Fortune 500 company their CEO had a finance background. And I was there to look at culture and how to change it to get more innovation. So it wasn’t even that soft. I mean, just like, you know, how do you give people rewards and metrics and create an environment to get more, you know, ideas. But the word culture felt too soft to this person, he actually said, we can’t use the word cultures, we worked in the organization. We’re talking to Fortune 500 company. And so you’d be surprised about the lack of willingness to recognize that our whole selves actually come to work, and that we have an opportunity to really leverage that if we are willing to look at it in ourselves first, you know, I’d say it’s probably 60/40 away from doing it, as I have experienced it in my professional career,


Mark Divine  16:52  

I would say that’s my experience as well. So developing this capacity as a team to, to look for this. And then to bring it out, besides just more creativity, what are what are some of the benefits? Like what what have you seen kind of contributing to the organization? That’s practical?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  17:10  

Yeah, I mean, so right now, you know, we’ve kind of gone back and forth these days in terms of like, are there, is there enough talent out there to hire or whether layoffs like it’s kind of a little confusing out there, but the the essence of it is, you know, you’re going to need if you’re in an organization, you need good talent? So do you pigeonhole talent and require a college degree? Do you pigeonhole talent and require very specific job experience with keywords? Or do you really look at the abilities that you’re wanting to hire for and grow for and look and expand and kind of hire outside the box, so that you’re getting people who might not have direct work experience tied to a job, but could do a great job. So an example, I also have a software startup, and we hired somebody who she, she’s 23 years old, and had no business experience. And when I talked to her, she wanted an internship. And I said, well, you don’t have any business experience. What do you been doing for for this amount of time, she’s like, I’m about to go back to school. But when she was in middle school, she moved from Berkeley, California to Israel. And she didn’t speak any Hebrew, went into school, had to learn the language, learn the culture, then went into the Israeli military for a year, because everybody is compulsory for a year. She then was asked to stay on for another year and lead a battalion of 20 soldiers, which she did. And I said, How’d you learn how to do that? And she said, I had to figure it out, is what she said, apparently, she was one of the top snipers. And at the time she’s like, 21. So she clearly had focus and perfection and presence to be like, so accurate with what she was doing. And then she took six months off and traveled alone in India. So that told me that she had a lot of characteristics around adaptability, flexibility, thinking, you know, focus yet, you know, kind of cross-cultural sensitivities. I hired her as an intern, and a few months later, we hired her, and she was leading software development teams in Africa, Europe, US within a year. Most people would have never even hired her as an intern. And so now she’s thriving in this organization. And it’s a great illustration of hiring outside the box. And so that’s a very practical example. 


Mark Divine  19:35  

That is, you know that kind of overlaps with another question that was rumbling around in the back of my head is really more kind of generational differences. Openness you know, and willingness, A) to to experience different things and B) to be willing to address traumas and do emotional work because I you know, I’m sure you’ve seen it just as I’ve seen, and it’s no mystery but it seems like you know, younger millennials and Gen Z are like wide open books and they, they want to have different experiences and they want to you know deal with whatever the traumas whereas, you know, I’m the last year of the boomers so hashtag Boomer here, my groups kind of like, alright, you know, a lot of guys kind of did the straight and narrow for a long period of time and like my father thinks, you know, therapy is quackery, and I’m married to a therapist. So that went over real well. You know, like, what’s that mean, for organizations? Cause, you know, we got, on the one hand, a lot of the leaders are in the boomers or, you know, Gen X group and the up and comers are, like…


Dr. Soren Kaplan 20:28



Mark Divine 20:29

Completely different, it seems like.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  20:31  

Yeah, so I’m married to a therapist too. So we can commiserate on that one. And, but you know, the, the, I’m the oldest of the Gen X generation, essentially. And so you and I are right there in a zone of growing up in a culture that placed shame on mental illness and mental struggles. And so what the good news is, is that, and you know, it’s hard because right now we have an epidemic of mental health issues.


Mark Divine 20:58

We do.


Dr. Soren Kaplan 20:58

But the good news is that we look at mental health, as on par is just health these days, much more so than when you and I were growing up, there’s not shame tied to it as much. So that sets a tone, where I think that if we look at the traumas, I want to also say, it’s not just the big stuff. For example, if you’re criticized by a parent, just over time, those can be little impacts. So that when you’re in a work situation, and your manager wants to give you a feedback, you might have what I call a visceral memory, of being criticized, and you you tense up and your manager experiences that tension, and it creates this negative relationship loop is what I call it, so that you end up in this difficult spiral of kind of negative relationship where you know, your management then doesn’t want to give you feedback, or it’s very difficult to grow. So looking at the small things, and looking at the big things, I think are equally important. Sometimes the small things flies under the radar, even more than the big stuff. But you can do it through therapy, you can I did something called E M D. R.


Mark Divine  22:11  

We talked about it all the time here, because I’ve had great success with EMDR. And my wife, you know, is trained in it.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  22:16  

It’s a miracle process, in my in my view, it really rewires you. So, you know, if you’re open to recognizing that mental health is just health, and that if you address those things, then you can step up in a way that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. And you can help other people too, because the flip side of, of all this stuff is if you’re, the more you’re self aware, the more you help others become self aware, because of just how you’re showing up. And so there’s all those benefits, I think the younger generation, like you said, is primed to bring their whole selves to work. And there’s all this wellness work now happening in organizations also to support wellness. And that’s the broad definition of wellness, not just physical, we’re on the cusp in a very positive way of a lot of change. Older guys like us, I think, can help steward that. But the younger generation is going to benefit a lot from that we’re going to see a lot of culture change in society and organizations over the next 25 years.


Mark Divine  23:14  

Totally agree, and a lot of good stuff coming. Back to this, this generational issue. It’s almost like we have two opposite issues, right? And the and the older group, right, it’s, it’s to kind of open them up to crack them open to be able to be more vulnerable, and so that they can be more authentic. And on the younger side is to be more resilient and gritty, and to not be so sensitive, that, you know, they wear everything on their sleeve, and they go off the handle and, you know, at the slightest microaggression. How do we rectify these two kind of bookends?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  23:45  

Yeah, there’s a third element of that bookend, which I think is important in organizations today, which is the loss of knowledge and skills, and abilities in an older workforce. So you’ve got a huge age wave retiring. And I’m seeing that across organizations.


Mark Divine  24:06  

Isn’t that also leading to just a redefinition of retirement and redefinition of, you know, age in the workforce and relevance and retaining wisdom? I mean, maybe that’s where we’re leading. But I’ve already seen a lot of dialogue and discussion about, hey, we can’t be just putting people out to pasture at 65.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  24:23  

That’s exactly where I’m going with that. It’s a great connection point, because you just articulated the problem and the opportunity. And take those bookends the younger older, pair them up, create coaching opportunities.


Mark Divine 24:36

Oh yeah.


Dr. Soren Kaplan 24:37

Create mentoring opportunities, create an innovation team. You don’t want just the season people on it, you want the young, new, you know, kind of up and comers in it. And that diversity of age as well and experience is also important. So those bookends that you talked about are important to recognize and then merge them together as much as possible so they’re no longer bookends if you will.


Mark Divine  25:00  

You know, I mentioned before we started that we’re adapting Harvard professor Robert Keegan’s work, and the deliberately development organizations a mouthful, but we just call it DDL or growth organization, right. The basic premise for the listener is that the organization is set up, the cultural DNA is set up to unlock, and foster personal development. And, you know, we call vertical development. So you’re growing and consciousness awareness, compassion, as opposed to just horizontally developing new skills, it takes a little while to develop, right, because you know, any change initiative, if you’re coming into, like, the organizations that you talked about where the CEO who was the CFO is thinking the word culture is too soft, you know, it is going to be a long haul to try to change the culture. But some of the more nimble organizations or, or even startups can think of this way, whereby the employee is given the same level of attention as the customer and, you know, the stakeholders are all given the same kind of like, okay, let’s, there’s nothing more important than the people both inside the business and those who we interact with. So how do we bring out the best in everybody.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  26:02  

That’s so spot on. I also think that the, it’s important to define culture, because it’s such an amorphous term, but it’s the way I look at it. My last book was on it. It’s the norms and values that shape behavior. And those norms and values are usually oftentimes fly under the radar of kind of explicitness, you can have value statements, but usually those are BS. Cultures created, really, it’s a really a simple cycle. It’s funny how culture is such a mystery to a lot of organizations in terms of how you manage it, but it’s really people have experiences. Those experiences shape your beliefs about what’s right behavior, wrong behavior, good behavior, bad behavior, those beliefs than shape your behavior. So you do do things. And because you’re doing things that people are looking at, that’s creating experiences. Experiences, to assumptions to behavior, it’s a feedback loop. 

And so, you know, if you can intervene and create different experiences for people, that’s the experiential side of leadership, like, what are the experiences you want to show up and create for people, so show up for yourself and not, you know, have knee jerk reactions here and there, but also shaped like very explicitly recognizing people who demonstrate the kind of values you want in your organization and telling stories about them in public. You know, and highlighting that or, you know, even the stuff that you quantify and measure, that is an experience you’re giving to people. The work processes, you decide to create create experiences? So are they difficult and broken? Are they streamlined and simple? Like, there’s a lot of things that create culture that are both formal and less formal than I think, if you’re, if you’re conscious of what you just described, in terms of your latest work.


Mark Divine  27:46  

Right. The old way was, culture just kind of happens, right? And I think that that’s true, it’s gonna happen anyways. But it’s kind of like a, you know, like a river, you can shape the direction by defining the banks of the river and kind of where the turns are. And so these practices that you’re talking about are one way to shape that intentionally. For the greatest benefit of all, you know, I’m reflecting upon my Navy SEAL experience. One of the ways we did that was through direct feedback in every single mission and training mission, which is all the time, by the way, literally, almost every day we were doing this, we would debrief it, and you’ve probably read about the military debrief process. It is very, very cool, because it’s automatically psychologically safe, because there’s nothing personal about it, right? Someone looks at me and says, you know, Lieutenant Divine, this is what I observed, and it led to these consequences, which, you know, weren’t that good. Right? Basically, you fucked up. 


Dr. Soren Kaplan 28:42



Mark Divine 28:43

But but I didn’t take it personally, because this is all about the team and the mission. Say, okay, so what could you have done differently? Well, yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done that. I probably shouldn’t have swept the team with my weapon. Let’s begin there. So yeah, okay. So let’s focus on that, you know, how do we improve that there’s some training, we can do some remediation, great. For the benefit of the team, I’m going to do that because I don’t want to put the team at risk. And I don’t want us to not accomplish the mission. And after the first couple times of this you just stopped taking it personally, because you realize everyone’s getting the same treatment. Everyone.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  29:11  

The other thing about that, and you apply this in a business context, it turns the concept of risk-taking into actually just rapid learning.


Mark Divine  29:19  

Rapid learning, absolutely no such thing as failure was our terminology. That didn’t mean we weren’t going to fail. It just meant we didn’t recognize failure.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  29:27  

And that’s the secret to innovation. So when you create a culture of innovation, what you just described is how you want a team to behave. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me to help come in and, and help create a culture of, of greater risk taking, like that’s the wrong question. What you want is a culture of rapid learning. The concept of risk goes away at that point, because it’s not even about risk.


Mark Divine  29:52  

I love that distinction. What are some of the negative sides of working remotely? Right, that you’ve seen because you know, you’ve done this work for us. Now all of a sudden you’re doing everything’s through zoom and organizations are, you know, I’m in my doctor right now a little late to the game. But you know, it’s always a good idea to stir things up when you’re when you’re our age. And so I’m back at Pepperdine in Global Lleadership and Change. And you know, so we’re kind of experiencing kind of the latest of what’s going on and all these cultural trends, but there’s a serious degradation and trust that accrues when you work remotely, if that’s the only way you’re working. And so what you’re talking about is how do you build trust, but you know, now you’ve got this kind of impediment or barrier between trust, or between the employees that degrades trust. So what do we do about that?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  30:37  

The research on virtual teams, and I was running the internal Strategy Group at Hewlett Packard HP, and we were working, we were remote team working in 1999. So we had a lot of practice with this. But the best practices is basically, if you can meet face to face once. Once, then you can go virtual, because that trust in a physical environment, it’s hard to repeat that in a virtual world. Now, not everybody can do that. If you can, that first time, it’s good to meet in person, then you go virtual, and you got a foundation. If you can’t do that, a lot of the same principles apply. But there are some differences. I can still read facial expressions on video. But if the video is fuzzy, or if there’s stuff happening in the background, or if I see a glare in your eyes, and you’re not focused, like there’s a lot of distractions that can happen and a lot of facial cues and subtleness, you know, body language that can be missed.


Mark Divine  31:41  

Are there any best practices there? For instance, like it drives me crazy in my Ph.D. cohorts when people keep their cameras off.  Is that allowed in an environment of high trust and a work environment? Or what are some of the best practices?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  31:54  

I’ve seen two, and I don’t think there’s research on the actual best practice, but I’ve seen two philosophies. One is you let people do what they do, because some people might be breastfeeding their baby. And like, that’s okay, because they want to create as an inclusive environment as possible…


Mark Divine 32:10



Dr. Soren Kaplan 32:11

…people can participate. And then it’s about trusting that they’re focused and participating. If you really want to foster trust, let people do what they want to do. Now, on the other hand, in a lot of the meetings that I run, I want to have people on video and I ask for that, unless there’s a reason why they have to give the reason. Let’s there’s a reason why they want to be off video.


Mark Divine  32:34  

If there in the office, they you can’t like, turn your face off.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  32:38  

You can’t turn your face, you might be able to a little bit if you’re in a bad mood.

Yeah, so you know, there are different philosophies here. There’s no research that says one way or the other definitively. And I think some of it just happens to do with the leader and what you want, as the norms to create. I have worked with a number of companies that are trying to figure out what that back to kind of post-COVID back to work model is. And forcing people back into the office is not working. Meaning good talent, and people who want flexibility have a lot of choices these days. And so if you’re too overly engineered, you’re going to lose good people. And so I think you just have to be careful about that as a general principle as well.


Mark Divine  33:24  

Yeah, that makes sense. One more question about culture and organizations. And I want to kind of wrap up by digging a little bit more into your book, is this growing trend toward a four-hour workweek? What’s been your experience with that?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  33:35  

Well, I mean, the whole concept of the actual four hour work week?


Mark Divine  33:39  

I didn’t mean the four hour, I meant the four day workweek.


Dr. Soren Kaplan 33:42

Four hour work week.. 


Mark Divine 33:43

The four hour work week was Tim Ferriss deal. I misspoke. I meant the four-day workweek.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  33:51  

Yeah, I think the general principle was, it would be great if we could really do four hours, but I think no one but Tim can do four hours. The four day work week, the research is coming out, there was just a research study that said actually, the productivity of a four-day workweek is equal to a five-day workweek. You know, I think if you’re looking at kind of knowledge workers, these days work, and personal life oftentimes are blending and intermixing. And how you’re counting days, I’m not even sure anymore, because you’re working in the morning, and then you work out in the late morning, and you come back, and you do some work in the afternoon, and you take a little time off and then you go and work a little bit at night. I think that if you have a trusting environment in which people know what their objectives are and their goals, and you have clear metrics around what does success look like. To me four days, five days, three days, if you can figure out how to get those things done, that’s what will allow you to be a high performing team because you might have to ebb and flow depending on what’s going on.


Mark Divine  34:53  

Right. And I think it does support kind of the idea of the meritocracy, which that with a high trust environment, right, which is okay. Yeah, let’s trust. And if there’s a gap, then we’ll we’ll deal with that. But if everyones rowing hard, and we’re getting shit done, and it’s only taking you three days this week, so you can go up to the slopes, awesome, shouldn’t be a problem.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  35:12  

the jury’s out in terms of how organizations are going to manage that. I think a lot of older managers and leaders have a harder time letting go of that control and visibility. It’s difficult. But I think that that’s the direction we’re headed. If, again, you look at the younger generation and the kind of the new cultural norms that are being created and pushed for we’re moving that way, I don’t think we can backtrack on it, I think we can figure out how to incorporate it in a moderated, reasonable way. So things just don’t blow up in our organizations. But we’re moving in that flexible, trusting you know world. Now at the same time, you have things like quiet quitting and other concepts like that, which are rubbing against the opportunity to do that because it suggests that you can’t trust people. I think if we are really wanting high-performing teams and organizations, we have to embrace that, and deal with the variances, the negative variances, rather than trying to have more control.


Mark Divine  36:15  

This is kind of the point here is if you have a culture that or an organization that just wants to use some strategy like that, to improve culture, it doesn’t always work that way, the better thing to do is to focus on becoming a psychologically safe and growth-oriented culture. And then if that culture, you know, the people in the culture decide they wanted to have a four-day workweek, you know, it’ll happen. 


Dr. Soren Kaplan  36:36  

Yeah. And you want to let people give people opportunities to focus on and grow in the ways they want to grow. And if they see those opportunities, they’re not going to quiet quit. They’re gonna want to engage.


Mark Divine  36:47  

Yeah. And engagement historically has been around like 35% in organizations, you know, we’ve got to get that up, is for the benefit of everyone. So you wrote this book, we’ve mentioned earlier, the idea of the experiential quotient. I love that. What else in there that we didn’t may not touch on that be really valuable to highlight the listener’s last few minutes?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  37:05  

Yeah. You know, I think that the notion that experiences deliver real intelligence it’s been around forever. We all have street smarts, sometimes the smarts, we have service well, because they’ve helped us survive and grow and cope and whatever our lives are. But sometimes those smarts out smartest later in life. And so we need to look at those little things that we’ve been doing. And the big things that maybe we’ve been doing that may not serve us well, you know, Marshall Goldsmith, the leadership coach, you know, has a book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. The whole idea that we all have real smarts, from our experiences that complement our IQ and our EQ. And it’s just really a matter of understanding it, and then figuring out how to use it, and then draw it out and other people make it explicit.

It’s a simple concept. It’s been around forever, it was actually the word experiential intelligence was created by the former president of the American Psychological Association. So it’s not mine, per se, but I’ve built it out. Because we’re ready for it. We’re in so much change in disruption today, in society and and business, we have to recognize those other success factors to use ourselves and then to draw out and our teams and organizations. So I think we’ve never been more ready for this idea, as a mainstream way to think about what makes us smart and what gives us legs to do what we want to do in life.


Mark Divine  38:29  

That’s awesome. By the way, there’s some another concept vying for the XQ domain ownership. And that’s the exponential explosion, right? The exponential mindset Peter Diamandis and Salim, and all those groups.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  38:41  

Oh, yeah, at a singularity. I, I’ve seen Salim talk a few times, great speaker, whatever we call it, you know, the idea is that we want to think bigger, we want to have greater impact. And we want to grow ourselves inside, so we can do the things outside that have an impact on, you know, making the world a better place. And so there’s a lot of words out there, but the essence of it is like how do we get more in touch with ourselves so that we can have a bigger impact?


Mark Divine  39:09  

So interesting. So where is there a place that you’d like folks to kind of reach out to you or learn more about your book, like a web property, or, you know?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  39:17  

you know, my personal website, and you can get the first chapter and just download it.  It’s Soren Kaplan.com sorenkaplan.com. And you get the first chapter, and a lot of little tools and templates we’ve been talking about are also available as a toolkit if you get the book as well.


Mark Divine  39:32  

Oh, that’s terrific. And what about social media? Do you use that?


Dr. Soren Kaplan  39:36  

I’m on most of the platforms, Instagram Dr. Soren Kaplan, LinkedIn, Soren Kaplan, Facebook.


Mark Divine  39:41  

Okay. We’ll put all this stuff in the show notes. What a great, great interview, really very interesting stuff, very relevant. I think a lot of listeners are going to find it extremely valuable. So I appreciate your time today.


Dr. Soren Kaplan  39:51  

Appreciate your time. Thanks for all the work you’re doing. 


Mark Divine 39:54

Yeah, Hooyah!. 


Mark Divine  39:57  

Incredible episode if you’re an organizational or team leader. You want to learn how to intentionally guide your culture to a culture of growth and inclusiveness, then this is a great episode for you share it forward. Show notes are up in Mark Divine.com. The video will be up on my YouTube channel. You can also find at the website link there, along with my blog. On Twitter, you can find me at Mark Divine and on Instagram,, Facebook @ Real Mark Divine, or you can reach out and hit me up on LinkedIn. Divine Inspiration comes out every Tuesday, where I disseminate my most top-of-mind information habits, products, my blog, as well as the show notes for the week’s podcasts, really cool stuff. Go to MarkDivine.com to sign up and refer to your friends. Thanks so much to my amazing team, Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell, and Catherine Divine, who helped produce this podcast and bring incredible guests like Dr. Kaplan to you every week. Reviews and ratings are very, very helpful. So if you haven’t done so, consider rating and reviewing the show wherever you listen. Apple, in particular, helps other people find it and keeps us on top of the ratings and motivated. Thanks so much for being part of the change you want to see in the world. We’re doing a part here and also over at SEALFIT, where we train people to be tough, body, mind, and spirit, and with a team. And if you’re interested in learning how to train like a Navy SEAL, to think like a Navy SEAL, and to be trained with Navy SEALs, go check out SEALFIT.com. Until next time, this is your host Mark Divine, Hooyah.


Transcribed by Catherine & https://otter.ai



ContactLEAVE A

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *