Culture: The Paint for Your Organization’s Picture

Define culture.

Sure, I will wait while you go to dictionary.com and look it up! Infact, I will save you the trouble, here it is:

Image From www.dictionary.com

Now, in your head, without the Internet – define culture (in an organizational sense). You may think of ideas like openness, clothing attire, behaviours, core values – but you are likely struggling to put this into a well constructed sentence. Organizational culture is intangible – it is something we feel, we experience, and we value; but we cannot define it (with full justice).

In “Organizational Culture” Dorian LaGuardia makes a similar point. He says, “Organizational cultures are not so encompassing, lacking the broad links that help define how we understand ourselves among others.”(Laguardia, 2008, p. 56). He further, quite accurately, points out that organizational culture is interpretive. This means that it is very possible that any observer will have a different perception of an organization’s culture. Some may view a particular organization’s culture as enriching and fruitful, others may see it as arrogant and proud.

Zappos, an online shoe store, their culture appears to be defined by their 10 core values (http://www.zappos.com/c/code-of-conduct). In his writeup, “At Zappos, Culture Pays” Dick Richards take particular note of core value number 3- “Create fun and a little weirdness.” (“ZAPPOS.COM, INC. CODE OF BUSINESS CONDUCT AND ETHICS”, 2010). Richards points out the hidden link on Zappos’ website that reads ‘Don’t ever click here’ which Rickrolls the user vis-a-vis the Muppet Rock Band. (Richards, 2010).

ImageFrom http://www.zappos.com

Now, put THAT culture into words.

However you define culture, or understand a particular organization’s culture, there is no question that culture plays a key role in every organization. Every organization has a different “vibe” – this “vibe” ferments because of their culture. This is what attracts or repels employees or customers.

As Bill Taylor points out in the title of his blog post, “Brand is culture, and culture is brand.” (Taylor, 2010). Your organization’s culture is how you will be viewed. He further says, “[Culture] helps you stand out among your customers, and stand out from the crowd in a hyper-competitive marketplace.” (Taylor, 2012). Well said, Bill. Your company’s culture is depicted by your advertising, your website design; your overall public-facing content. It paints a picture of your brand and it is how you’re judged.

Every organization wants to stand out from the rest. They want to be the ones who attract and who are admired. The company’s “vibe” is what builds this attraction. Culture paints the best picture for an organization. Its what makes internal users feel good, and its what attracts external users.

I close with a wise adage, and great video – “Culture eats strategy for lunch!”

http://youtu.be/kiFMJfrCO_0

Sources:

LaGuardia, D. (2008). Organizational Culture. T+D, 62(3), 56-61.

Richards, D. (2010, August 24). At Zappos, Culture Pays. Strategy + Business. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://www.strategy-business.com/article/10311?gko=c784e

Taylor, B. (2010, September 27). Brand is Culture, Culture is Brand. HBR. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://blogs.hbr.org/taylor/2010/09/brand_is_culture_culture_is_br.html

ZAPPOS.COM, INC. CODE OF BUSINESS CONDUCT AND ETHICS. (2010, May 1). Zappos. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://www.zappos.com/c/code-of-conduct

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4 Responses to Culture: The Paint for Your Organization’s Picture

  1. prabhmrkt says:

    Great post!

    Zappos is like the US variant of WestJet. Both companies pride themselves on their amazing corporate culture. Their culture is so strong with their top notch customer service as well. Amazon, the biggest e-retailer in the US saw how strong customer service can be a positive way to boost a company, and bought Zappos.

    The company sold for just over $900 million and amazon has started to shift it’s culture to mirror that of Zappos.

    http://techcrunch.com/2009/07/22/amazon-buys-zappos/

  2. sukhvirbains says:

    “Every organization has a different “vibe” – this “vibe” ferments because of their culture. This is what attracts or repels employees or customers.” I agree with this quote completely. Also, that culture is depicted with advertising. It’s because of advertisements that companies such as Vancity and other credit unions do that the public knows what sets them apart from banks. Their ads are based on communities and how they give back to them. Their image of being a community driven business represents their culture and the values that the employees within the organization hold.

  3. First of all, thank you for saving me the time to search the definition of culture! A blogger who thinks about this readers… I like it!

    Secondly, great post. I too have a hard time trying to define my working culture. It is something that just is created through the employees and the general attitude of the leaders of the organization. I think it is a great way to differentiate yourself and to possibly attract quality workers that you do not have to overcompensate for. Personally, once I am at a comfortable level in pay, the culture and my overall happiness at work is the most important consideration.

    Thanks for opening up some new perspectives on culture. Great read!

  4. vickrum says:

    I completely agree with you. But it’s not just “good culture” that attracts employees and customers, the firms know for their shady dealings have a strong customers base too coupled with dedicated employees. Case in point: the financial services industry. The financial services industry, especially the firms on Wall Street have a certain level of criminality which is distinctive (Inside Job, 2010). Yet, some of the largest and most powerful firms in the world are banks that have dealings with not only other Multi-National Corporation’s but with various international governments. Despite, having a large part in creating the housing bubble in the U.S. in 2008, and needing a bailout of over U.S. $ 10 billion, Goldman Sachs is still a heavy hitter in the world of investment banking. There Sachs are full of Gold despite defrauding millions out of their life savings. Most of Miami is built on drug money. Miami has the largest concentration of international banks in the world on Brickell Avenue. Guess what these banks do? Launder money for wealthy U.S. citizens trying to avoid paying taxes, Launder money for South American dictators and you guessed it Launder some more money for drug cartels trafficking cocaine between South America and U.S.A. (Cocaine Cowboys, 2006).

    Sources Cited:

    Corben, B. (Director/Producer) & Spellman, A. (2006). Cocaine Cowboys. [Documentary]. United States: Magnolia Pictures.
    Ferguson, C. (Producer/Director), & Marrs, A. (Producer). (2010). Inside Job. [Documentary]. United States: Sony Pictures Classics.

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