It’s not often a blog starts off by apologising- but it seems appropriate given that this is a topic which, if you Google it, has over 140 million hits. In the last month alone Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes have all covered this topic, and I don’t think a week goes by without Inc.com doing a piece on it. So, in the world of business, this is clearly a big deal right now- and as someone who works in this field I believe (thankfully) that it will be around for a LONG time. But how exactly do corporates deal with this important aspect of the organisation? More eerily: how have they not seen this all sooner, and how do we stop this becoming another cult fad? (First one to “Synergise the EQ of Culture” wins Buzzword Bingo)
As an Anthropologist by training, and HR/OD/Change Consultant by trade, I thought I might take a shot at addressing this. I must point out, however, that I don’t expect to address this all in one blog article. For those who don’t like my style, this will help them save A LOT of time- for those who do…sorry this might take a while. In my defence- to try and summarise Corporate Culture into one succinct piece would have been amazing (theologically miraculous at best)! I do think though, that by introducing the concept and process of Culture in the workplace, we can begin to traverse the landscape of Corporate Culture more assuredly and clearly.
I am not trying to do this for dramatic effect, or to bring you all back for me…believe me I wouldn’t torture you longer than I would have to (and if that’s your thing, lucky you). For something this immense, we have to avoid over-simplifying something that is beyond abstraction and standardising. Corporate Culture is too big for one article, and to try and treat it as less than that is disrespecting the entire field of Anthropology, and even the esteemed field of Economics.
I have dedicated my career towards tackling the ‘Mammoth’ that is culture, only to find that ‘Culture’ (at least as far as the organisations would like to try and commodify it) is in fact very much like the fabled Woolly Mammoth:
- looks nice (yet proportionally understated) in pictures,
- very scary when viewed in person,
- is nearly impossible to take down without the whole tribe participating, and (most integrally)
- is a very important source of life for everyone within the tribe.
So what is the lesson from today? Treat Corporate Culture with respect- because to treat it as a compact little toy, rather than a full-grown Woolly Mammoth, is how we got to where we are today.
…The fabled Woolly Mammoth- much like Corporate Culture wonderful to view from afar, but very scary and large up-close (Picture source: Wikimedia)