Center for Innovative Cultures

Helping organizations thrive by unleashing the talent, passion, and potential of people at work

The Center's First Events with Luca Cerruti

In mid-February, Luca Cerruti joined the Center for Innovative Cultures as our inaugural executive-in-residence. As such, he came to the Westminster campus to stimulate thinking about the role of culture in high-performing organizations. We were honored to have Luca as the first of our guest speakers, for his experience as the global sales leader for the consumer garments business of W. L. Gore & Associates makes him an eminently knowledgeable voice in this conversation. During his visit, he met with classes, student groups, and faculty, and gave two public presentations: “The Outdoors Redefined” and “The Virtual Nomadic Global Leader.”

The first presentation on “The Outdoors Redefined” described the changes that have hit the outdoor industry over the past 20 years. These changes have included enthusiasts’ expectations of outdoor experiences. Once, enthusiasts wanted the long, slow, solitary experiences that a week or two of backpacking represented. Now, enthusiasts want to rock climb in the morning, get in some white-water rafting in the afternoon, and end the day with some biking in the evening. And they want to do it with lots of friends. And they want to share their adventures immediately via Facebook with all those who couldn’t make the trip(s). At the same time, the sportswear and sporting goods industry is changing—with elimination of many small boutique retailers and consolidation to a smaller number of global players.

In his presentation on “The Virtual Nomadic Global Leader,” Luca talked about his experience in leading the global consumer garments sales team that has sales Associates located in 4 major geographical regions (EU, US, Asia-Pacific, and Japan), and the challenges for him as leader to help create enough alignment around strategic priorities while allowing teams to execute and innovate as local conditions needed or allowed.

As I reflected on these two presentations, I realized that they both spoke to a conception of culture that comes from Ed Schein and that we often referenced in our culture work at Gore. According to Schein, culture reflects the patterned responses to two types of challenges: challenges of external adaptation and challenges of internal integration. Challenges of external adaptation arise from changes in the environment—what consumers want, what competitors offer, how supply and distribution channels are constructed. Challenges of internal integration come when the ordinary ways of how we work together get upset—by increasing or decreasing size, reorganization, coordination demands and so on.

Luca’s two talks elaborated on the external and internal challenges he has experienced in his time at Gore. Interestingly, when Luca spoke about how he (and Gore) has coped with these challenges, he pointed to features of the Gore culture that were the resources used. Teamwork. Deep knowledge. Self-responsibility. Mutual accountability.

Some of the practices within the Gore culture have changed over the years, for sure.  No longer are Gore teams typically all co-located in plants of 150 Associates, for example. But some of the deeper elements of the culture remain the key resources for adjusting and adapting. Schein’s notion that cultures must be dynamic remains true. But maintaining the core elements of a culture over time creates trust, credibility, and confidence.

We hope to have video of Luca’s public lecture available in our Center’s website archive soon. For those interested in other Center events, please check out our Tools and Practices Workshop, which will be held on Friday, April 10, in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business.