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Corporate Culture - The View From My Petri Dish

When writing my recent blog on corporate values, I spoke of the connection between values and culture.   A symbiotic relationship if ever there was one.  But, what does it really mean to have a culture?  Some shared interests and preferences, sure, but an actual culture?

When in doubt, I do what I've always done since my days as a youngster and first take a look in the dictionary.  Very interesting indeed.  And because old stand-up comics, much like cockroaches and Keith Richards, never die, I can't resist having some fun with this.

Here's what I found ... much of it eerily fits some of the places I've worked.

The first dictionary explanation stated, "a particular form or stage of civilization - eg. Greek or Roman culture."

I question if it's truly reasonable to expect that each individual workplace has a distinct culture?  Next time you're driving through the business section of your city take a look around and ask yourself if it's possible that there could be that many individual cultures created by a group of people who, for the most part, only have a pay cheque, a pension plan and a shared loathing for the annual company picnic in common?  It took the Greeks thousands of years to develop a culture with it's own language, arts, customs, and social mores.  Certainly none of our workplaces have been around that long. 

But hang on, now that I think about it that way, I'm beginning to believe this might actually be possible. Consider this: language = corporate jargon and acronyms; arts = cublicle photos, white boards and corporate posters on teamwork; customs = the morning coffee run to Timmy's or the sub-culture that meets out beside the loading dock at breaks and lunch for a smoke; social mores, also known as moral guidelines = hey, we're back to corporate values again!  I did warn these were symbiotic.

Another definition stated "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."  I know what this is.  This is when the old guard explains how things are done around here the first time an enthusiastic new hire suggests a better way of doing something.

Then there was this definition, "to introduce (living material) into a culture medium."  They must be referring to the new employee orientation or on-boarding process ... will the living material survive or will it be metabolized by the existing culture medium and painfully eliminated?

I'm on to something here aren't I?

How about this next definition, "the cultivation of micro-organisms, such as bacteria or of tissues; the product or growth resulting from such cultivation." This is a toughie.  Let's think it through  .... cultivating a micro-organism developed from existing tissue.  Wait, I know!  Nepotism - this is when we hire the owner's son to work in the mailroom for the summer.

Of course I've saved the best for last.  How about "the act or practice of cultivating the soil; tillage."  Ok, I can't resist this connection .... I haven't seen a lot of soil being cultivated in the places I've worked, but I have witnessed a whole lot of other soil-like material being shovelled on a regular basis.  And spread around liberally, we have to realize this is the stuff that's fertilizing our corporate culture.

Thanks for letting me have some fun with this; I hope you've had a laugh and don't forget to let me know - what are you cultivating in your corporate petri dish?

 





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