We’re Thinking About Organizational Culture All Wrong

John Traphagan, Harvard Business Review, Jan 11, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

These points apply not only to organizational culture, but to culture in general. "Culture isn’t just about unity; it’s also about division. Rather than a deterministic 'thing' that shapes behavior and unifies people, culture is something people use, often strategically, to achieve goals." This is really important. It's not about unity at all, in my view. It's an artifact, like a road system, or a shopping mall, or a corporate logo, or a language. It is normatively neutral. And when someone is saying we should all be unified under one of these or another, they are using culture in an effort to meet their own goals by having you set your own goals aside. As John Traphgen says, "The attempt to unify an organization by creating a 'culture' is ultimately an exercise of power."

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