Written by Alexander Osterwalder on September 03, I want to hear your stories and experiences of working within a nightmare organizational culture. Your experiences can help shape the conversation and co-creation of a better way to design organizational cultures. Will you share your story with me? For peace of mind, you can submit anonymously. How do companies design great organizational cultures?
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How can we at Strategyzer design a great organizational culture? These are questions I frequently ask myself because I want to attract and retain outstanding team members.
Business history is littered with doomed approaches to organizational culture. Remembering my own childhood, the panto in The Gaiety was the cultural highlight of the year for our family. Weeks of anticipation led up to our arrival in the plush theatre dressed in our Christmas clothes. Our weekly visits to the DeLuxe Cinema were a lot less glamorous as we queued along Camden Street again full of anticipation but back on familiar territory and with no box of Milk Tray.
Kevin Street Library was heaven to me. I never thought of it as culture, it was just a completely normal, huge part of my childhood. I got lost amongst the mahogany bookshelves and devoured books about boarding schools, midnight feasts, saints and young sleuths who solved crimes far more quickly than the police — from here the world opened up to me and, more importantly, I learned how to dream.
But still, in spite of my discomfort, I was drawn back again and again into portraits and the landscapes that moved and delighted me.
Popular Culture: Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Once a child became old enough, its body stopped producing the enzyme that is necessary to process milk. Eventually, however, society shifted from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society. And when that happens, the people of that time started consuming milk more regularly. Over time, then, their bodies started to keep producing the enzyme that is necessary to process milk even as they got older.
This is also the reason why in many cultures around the world, especially in Asia, the majority of people until today do not have the ability to process lactose. In that sense, the evolution of a cultural behavior shift towards agriculture has had a strong impact on the development of our genes the ability to process milk. Likewise, by developing the capability to process milk, this has also encouraged people to consume milk in much larger quantities.
Both cultural- as well as genetic evolution have a strong impact on one another. Remember, both genetic- as well as cultural evolution essentially are tools of survival.
Why Your Culture Does Not Matter To Me
It is just that instead of focusing on the survival of genes, cultures focus on the survival of a system of thought and behavior. As long as the system of thought and behavior which constitutes for a culture keeps existing, the goal of the culture is fulfilled. But what exactly is a cultural system? A cultural system is a collection of values, assumptions, beliefs and ways of thinking which are interrelated with one another.
These different components are shared with the other people of that culture, and they exist for the sake of enable the people to make a life as a community possible. In that sense, a culture is constantly evolving.
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People are inventing new things, adjusting their beliefs slightly, and ridding themselves of old beliefs which are no longer viable. Rather, it means that your own belief system is situated within the wider context of that culture, placing boundaries around your way of thinking as a response to the environmental conditions that you are exposed to on a daily basis.
In other words, the environment that we live in determines what we believe in and how we think. First and foremost, your culture wants stability of the system. Therefore, there are automatic feedback systems built into every culture.
People are automatically keeping one another in check. Basically, they will indirectly say something along the lines of:. On a governmental level, the government will threaten to stop giving you financial support if you have lived overseas for a longer period of time. On a corporate level, management will threaten to fire you if you simply let your beard grow as much as you want.
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There is always some degree of societal control built into every culture in order to make sure that an internal consistency of beliefs is maintained and society is able to function. As a simple example, every society depends on hierarchy in one way or another. There will always be a few people on the top, and a much larger group of people in the middle- and low levels of society. If your family is a middle-class family, they will ingrain middle-class values and beliefs into your mind… whether they want it or not.
If you are giving in to the beliefs that you are exposed to all the time by being part of a specific environment, then you are letting yourself to be shaped by society in general or by a specific group of people in particular. You are no longer making your own choices as a an individual. For example, I had a friend who has been sent by his company to Iran for two years.
In a way, this program was great, because for two years he was not working. All he was expected to do was to study and to learn the language. At the same time, however, his company forbid him to bring his wife and his kid to Iran.
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