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Organisational Culture: Embodied Learning in a New Simulation

  •  “An experience that is fun, challenging and like nothing I've done before! Would recommend to anyone who wants a fresh perspective on organisation culture.”


  • “An excellent immersion into culture norms and behaviours providing physical, emotional and psychological insights into the impact of these on the humans that work in them”
  • “It helped me arrive at some powerful insights into my personal responses when confronted with different perspectives and behavioural styles in an organisational culture context. The insights are already shaping my thinking about what effective collaboration and team building looks like, and addressing unspoken conflicts that arise through all sorts of difference and diversity.”

Those are some of the comments from participants who have taken part in one of our simulation events online people simulations exploring culture, hidden assumptions and other artefacts of our working environments.Digito

One of the aims of the simulation is for participants to explore what it is that often prevents teams and organisations from working in different more congruent ways despite good intentions.  They discover some of their own blockages and become more aware of hidden drivers which work against them.  The process provides a starting point to reflect deeply on systemic blockers that hold organisations back and creates a roadmap to overcome them.

The simulation works by letting us experience the “culture iceberg” in its entirety rather than just seeing what is above the water.  However, we are not looking at it, talking about it or thinking about it, but ‘living’ it and being in it. The experience is embodied, meaning we learn through the felt experience we go through, in this case of working in a different organisational culture.

MechanoSeveral organisational cultures are involved: one which is past-oriented and mechanistic in approach, another one more present-oriented which is ‘ad hoc’, regenerative and organic, and another more future-oriented one, a digital data-driven world.  The experience examines culture change transitions, moving from one era or paradigm to another. 

The process comes to a peak when the different cultures meet, giving participants a powerful sense of contrast from the different environments. It is often difficult to understand the environment or culture we work in because we have nothing to contrast it to.  It is like fish in water who only become aware of water when they are out of it, or humans who only become aware of air when we are out of it, deep in the water. 

The simulation is a useful tool for teams or organisations who are undergoing major changes, or who are trying to reinvent themselves, but are "stuck".  The intense experience presents participants with some reference points to later refer back to whenever they find themselves in liminal conditions. In organisations and communities alike, the experience triggers deep conversations within and between teams that they have never had before, often on very difficult and sensitive issues (moose-heads), but in a psychologically safe environment.  New possibilities open up.


The simulation works as a stand-alone, and also works well within a larger change or reinvention intervention, enabling participants to self-organise and co-create better ways of working.  It is often the beginning of a shared learning journey. Complexity requires multiple perspectives, with the full engagement of the wider workforce.  The simulation helps unleash that potential, the collective intelligence within the organisation, by giving participants a contrasting framework to think from.

The simulation is a very powerful tool, enabling participants to gain a completely different perspective on what makes people, teams or organisations tick in these times of flux. It is a unique experience, and as other participants have said:

  • “The experience was fun and challenging and opened my eyes in terms of how flexible and adaptable people need to be to work together successfully.”


  • “I really enjoyed it! I Love how elegantly you described the cultural memes so that we would easily adopt them. Powerful stuff, still reflecting on it weeks later.”

  • The "swimulation" was a very interesting experience! Surprising and fun on the surface, triggering deeper reflection afterwards.”


Our next Open Swimulation event, public for organisational members who want to learn more about it, about its power and whether applying it in their own organisation would be suitable, will take place online on Wednesday, 11th October 2023 at 14:00. To register please visit our registration page.


The simulation was adapted by François Knuchel and further developed by the GoFish! Collective team – hence we call it a ‘Swimulation’.  It is currently only available for our clients or for clients of consultants who commission us to run it with their clients.  Based on demand we are now exploring how we might make it more widely available. For more information, please contact me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.