Do a search for business culture and you’ll get a billion results. Literally. A billion.
Despite the feverish pursuit to define, perfect, and brand culture, there are some things that might come as a surprise.
What are five things you might not know about business culture?
It’s not new
Business culture may have gotten a lift from ping-pong laden tech companies; but smart business leaders have been hawkish on the subject for years. Way back in the early 20th century, IBM’s Thomas Watson, says the company, “understood that one of his most important tasks would be to knit the three organizations together—not just operationally but with a common set of beliefs and processes.”
It can get in the way of innovation
Opting for a “hire for fit” mentality can cause homogeny; and research shows that’s bad for innovation…and profits. “To invite truly inclusive organizations,” wrote Horizons Workforce Consulting’s Lucy English, “we need to give up the ideas of ‘one culture,’ and instead open our doors to diversity of perspective, background, and thought.”
The best cultures disagree…a lot
Since innovation requires diversity of thought, it also courts disagreement. And since the alternative, wrote Helen Zarba not long ago, “is a little like the definition of insanity – you have the same people asking the same questions over and over but expecting a different conclusion,” you want to entertain those uncomfortable conversations. That doesn’t mean it’s the Wild West. Values statements, Helen said, guide the disagreements…and keep them respectful.
It’s more than skin deep
Shiny home offices get lots of press. But treehouses and inter-floor slides don’t a culture make, especially since there has yet to be a slide invented that can connect a home office in New York City to remote employees (and we know there lots of those) in Kalamazoo. As Andy Swann said this week at Work Human, “Designing a successful workplace means more than the physical space. It’s the right people in the right place taking the right actions. That’s organizational design in humancentric workplaces.”
It’s an excellent barometer for bottom lines
Happy employees making happy customers which make for happy investors. On the flipside, when something’s amiss, it costs. It’s the reason you want to encourage honest employee satisfaction surveys; and the reason you want to listen to what they tell you.
Finally, cultures are like profile pics: they may look casually created, but every facet is carefully placed; and you want the finished product to accurately reflect who you are lest you chase off surprised hires who were expecting a completely different personality.
And remember; the authentic ones are the ones that last. Thomas Watson talked about culture 100 years ago. And IBM is still here.