Culture, like language, is an adaptive self-organizing complex system. Metaphorically, it is the operating system of an organization which cannot be changed by simply applying “best practices” or “new rules”. Ideas are agents within the cultural system. A culture hacker uses observation and empathy to sense cracks within the cultural system.
A crack is something which feels uncomfortable. It feels like tension, perhaps a conflicting idea or assumption, which would be revealed by or could serve as a leverage for the hack.
A culture hack is the minimal, artful intervention which, if successful, influences the culture of an organisation by making use of the crack. A hack consists of activities creating events that have the potential to change a prevalent idea or assumption, e.g. by introducing narratives telling a different truth.
“Cultural Hacking can be understood as infiltration into systems and the changing of their coding. It is a critical, often even subversive game, with cultural codes, messages, and values.” (Joannes M. Hedinger, Com&Com)