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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Diversity – It’s all about perspective

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcome Forbes

Life would be pretty boring if we were all the same. We’d all speak the same language, have the same skin colour, be the same age, have the same experience, share the same values, and think the same things. We aren’t all the same – and the more diverse we are, the stronger we are as a group. The experience and perspective that diversity can bring to any workplace situation is unmatched. Yes, they can be both positive and negative, but the negative experiences help us learn new things and gain new perspective.

Many companies have recognized the strength of diversity and pride themselves on their diverse cultures. In 1993, Microsoft launched the GLEAM – Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender resource group.  GLEAM is now about 700 people large, and hosts various events along with employee initiatives within Microsoft. (Microsoft, 2012).

Diversity, however, is more than sexual orientation or ethnic background (as may sometimes be the default thought). In 2008, Samsung highlighted their recognition of strength in diversity, when they received the “True Company” award for excellent performance in disabled employment. (Samsung, 2009). Samsung’s “Respecting Global Diversity” report published in 2009 can be found here.

While embracing diversity as a strength is a trait critical to success, it may not be something that can be taught to each employee. Part of having a diverse culture means accepting those who have no value for diversity. (Yeah, wrap your head around that one!) In his article, Peter Bregman points out that “Diversity training doesn’t extinguish prejudice. It promotes it.” Perhaps it’s true, bringing the elephant in the room to everybody’s attention only makes it more visible. (Bregman, 2012).

Bregman makes a good point to conclude – “Instead of seeing people as categories, we need to see people as people. Stop training people to be more accepting of diversity. It’s too conceptual, and it doesn’t work.” (Bregman, 2012). Yes! I could not agree more! People are only “different” when we point out their differences. John is disabled when we make a point to mention John is in a wheelchair. Jane is Hispanic when we say she is Hispanic. John is a man, and Jane is a woman – that’s all.

Diversity is not a policy, not an attempt to eliminate conformity, and it is not about hiring people with different skin colours and beliefs – diversity is simply perspective. Diversity brings different perspective to different situations.  The more perspective any situation or decision can have, the more likely it is that a widely accepted solution will come about.

 

 

 

 

Sources

Bregman, P. (2012, March 12). Diversity Training Doesn’t Work. Harvard Business Blog. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/03/diversity-training-doesnt-work.html

Microsoft (n.d.). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees at Microsoft. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees at Microsoft. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from http://www.microsoft.com/about/diversity/en/us/programs/ergen/gleam.aspx

Samsung (2009). Respecting Global Diversity. Samsung. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from http://www.samsung.com/us/aboutsamsung/sustainability/integritymanagement/download/RespectingGlobalDiversity.pdf