I'm delivering an experiential workshop tomorrow night to a bunch of MSc Business Psychology students in their 'Cultural Diversity' elective.
So - what's your favourite description/definition of culture?
Do you have any great examples of cultural diversity?
Here's a nice example:
- in the UK, if you flash your headlights at another car it means 'go ahead, I'll make way for you'.
- in France, if you flash your headlights at another car if means 'look out, I'm coming through!'
Quite important to know the difference!
I think culture is important and 'exists' in some way outside of yoghurts (so I guess I disagree with Paul). Perhaps it's my anthropology background.
I like Edgar Schein's three levels of culture - artifacts on the surface (the things you can see, touch, hear, smell, taste, read), espoused values (the things the organisation says about itself in public - mission statement, values lists, manuals and policies) and underlying assumptions (the things people believe so deeply about 'how we do things round here' and 'what work is' etc) which form the boundaries of activities and choices which are seen as possible / impossible, legitimate / illegitimate etc. You can see these as an iceberg, with the really important stuff below the surface.
Paul's everday interactions will be framed by the largely hidden underlying assumptions , and the conversations themselves will reinforce the culture, and give it a detailed manifestation. Physical artifacts (uniform, reception areas, office layout, products, logos etc) are a tangible manifestation of culture, and also reinforce it. If they are not aligned with it, you'd notice and feel the tension.
I agree that all the daily interactions can also gradually reshape culture, so it evolves over time. And of course interactions with those outside the organisation also influence the culture.
When Paul intervenes with his miracle questions, he's deliberately disrupting the underlying assumptions or trying to get the coachee to step outside of them.
If enough disruption happens, the culture may shift quite fast to something clearly different to how it was before.
I guess culture is the sum of all the things on the three levels of culture which enable someone in the organisation to say '(s)he's one of us' or '(s)he's not one of us' (regardless of whether the person is formally part of the organisation or not).
Have a great workshop.
Culture is for yoghurts. In organisations, talk about culture tends to distract people from the interactions that happen day to day, in the moment. The action is in the interaction. If there has to be a description of culture, how about, "The culture consists of all the conversations and other interactions (in the organisation) that anyone talking about the culture is aware of".
the one definition of organizational culture that I keep coming back to is Edgar Schein's: A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.
Edgar Schein did publish a revised version of his The Corporate Culture Survival Guide that I find as relevant as ever.
I don't know whether you have worked only in France, or have experience of organisational cultures which seem to be different depending on where (which country) an organisation is based or located?