The Saturday Post: What We Can Learn About Organizational Culture from Airports

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No place like airports stay “on message” these days. From the minute you enter the terminal messages about your luggage and strangers and homeland security pervade the space. They are visual, audible and even tactile. Signs and symbols abound. This constancy of consistent messaging creates something of a culture of security through words of caution, vigilance and warning. Though we may try and tune it out, still the messages keep coming and they will not be ignored. We hear them even when we aren’t listening and see them despite not looking. By now most of us could likely repeat the flight attendant’s pre-flight charge verbatim without notes. No matter how annoying, they permeate our awareness and shape our traveling habits. Words have a way of hitting their targets. Our words create our worlds. 

Words and symbols, written and spoken shape our reality through forming our culture. It’s what the biblical writer implies when he instructs us to, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

So why don’t we develop literal messaging strategies in our homes, places of work and houses of worship. What if every fifteen minutes a voice recording played over the speakers in my home saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” (Psalm 118:24) or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” (Luke 6:31) or “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not boast. It is no proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-6  What if every time we entered the restroom we saw a sign that simply said, “Love is patient.”

What if the hallways at work resounded with recorded words like, “Encourage one another and build each other up,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) or “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13

What if we entered the lobby of the worship facility and heard over the loud speaker words like, “One thing I ask of the Lord; one thing I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

Something about the constancy of messaging via audible words and posted signs can capture attention and shape awareness like nothing else. Though we’ve heard it before, we can never hear it enough. It’s a form of brainwashing, which in the right scenario may not be such a bad thing.

It’s working at the airport.

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