The Corporate Culture Cure

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April 5th, 2011 by Larry Herst
When you hear the word “culture,” you, like most people, probably picture some other land with strange customs you don’t quite comprehend. Culture is odd or other to us, which is why we often fail to see what makes up our own. We’re too close, and our customs are too ubiquitous to think to apply the word to ourselves. We take our rituals and traditions for granted as just a standard way of existing without judgment.

The problem with this is that it presents a challenge for sparking cultural change. At once, cultural change is one of mankind’s greatest adaptation tricks – allowing us to cope and adjust without the need to wait on physical mutation to help us get along in the rapidly changing world – and one of the most confounding things for us to really understand.

Culture, according to a recent essay in The Edge, is an iterative process that involves four pillars:

foundational ideas,
everyday practices and artifacts,
and selves.
In order to affect cultural change, you need to affect change in all four areas.

When we talk about corporate culture, as we like to do at MindWorks, these things are no less true. And it’s important to be able take off the blinders and study your corporate culture so that you can understand how it works and what you need to change. In light of the assertions in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, We All Work for Enron Now, it seems that the blindness to your corporate culture could ultimately be your company’s demise. While the article asserts that it pertains to our global economy, the crux breaks down to ‘lethal’ corporate cultures being largely at fault and offers hope by pointing to companies that are making substantive changes. Organizations like The Institute for Sustainable Development with its Green Plus Certification, and B Labs with its B Corp designation can be a big help in providing structure for building a culture that focuses on the triple bottom line: people, planet and performance.

By recognizing the ways your ideas, institution, actions, and people comprise your organization and shape its culture, you can begin to make those changes to formulate a stronger company better suited for growth and sustainability. By extension, understanding and embracing culture change puts you in a position to continue to adapt to change, which is coming whether you’re ready for it or not. What are you doing to change your corporate culture for the better?


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