The word culture comes from the Latin “Cultura” – cultivation, first used by the Roman Senator Cicero who articulated the phrase “Cultura Animi’–to cultivate the soul. This non-agrarian use of the word culture was rekindled in the 17th Century Europe. It may bring up the familiar notion of a plough, with which the farmer turns over the soil. This action buries the extant and reveals the new. The same applies to the human, when he or she turns over (and hides) the old, to reveal new, fresh, and often hidden resources. Cultivate also infers the ongoing process of looking after that which has been seeded or planted in the soil.
Most business cultures are developed bottom up. The founders or entrepreneurs bring their own moral, ethical, and work culture to the start-up. This normally prevails, becoming the de facto culture that new employees then confront, and old employees embody. However in the modern business climate businesses exchange hands, amalgamate, or acquire many different subsidiaries or holdings. These new entities become part of a new whole but may have brought with them completely different corporate cultures. The aim of bringing in a new culture is to seed a common unifying element that (ultimately) permeates the whole organism. The varying and often competing cultures are discarded or adapted, but in the inception and cultivation of what is considered new, foreign, or alien, the new businesses may defend the old.
For simplicity, we could say culture is evolutionary or emergent, arising from five elements:
Historical culture: The rituals, myths, and history that we acquire from our nation, tribe, group, family, or institution that we are born into, and learn from. This is both emulative and imitative.
Culinary culture: A culture that dictates how we are nourished, nurtured, looked after, and fed. This is the culture that we may see as culinary: and made obvious by our local peculiarities and particulars in how we are fed and nurtured (or not), but also by a group’s collective models of sustenance as well as perceived ‘high models’ of such – e.g. Italian, Georgian, Turkish cuisine (and this view will be modified by availability, time and new models arising into the collective consciousness). This could also be called popular culture because it also includes how the general population is nourished through pursuits that feed the ‘spirit’ en masse.
Collective culture: A set of contemporary and shared values, attitudes, practices, and rituals within our larger family, organization, group, tribe, or nation. This includes religion and the development of group ethics and morals.
Human culture: Excellence in the fine arts and humanities; art, music, literature, theatre &c. The refinement of morality, and personal ethics.
High Human or Noble culture: cultivation of spiritual, humanitarian, philanthropic, and Higher moral and ethical behaviors and stewardship towards others and the world as Gaia (see below). When a civilization or nation develops a morally uplifting, democratic (often), and egalitarian culture that embodies spiritual values (rather than just religious) even though most will do this through their existent framework. Such examples from history would be the Lycian civilization and Javanese society.
Gaia – a controversial hypothesis, by James Lovelock, a former NASA research scientist, who proposed that the biosphere and the physical components of the earth create a complex interacting system that maintains the biogeochemical conditions on the earth in a balanced or suitable homeorhesis. Lynn Margulis, a microbiologist who collaborated with Lovelock, writes that “Gaia is an emergent property of interaction among organisms”, and, “the series of interacting ecosystems that compose a single huge ecosystem at the Earth’s surface”, and, “that the surface of the earth acts as a physiological system in certain limited ways.” Since 2007, Lovelock argues that we have so damaged Gaia, that there will be no way to alter the earth’s state, and the consequent mass extinction of life as we know it, and that we will fall back into a Paleocene-EoceneThermal maximum era.
Recent researchers Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan argue that Gaia belongs to a class of complex thermodynamic systems, not just living ones, that are naturally purposeful; and that life optimizes rather than maximizes entropy production Schneider, Eric, D. and Sagan, Dorion (2004). Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226739366.
The word culture is derived from the Latin “cultura and infers cultivation of the soil, from which later arose the idea of cultivation of the mind, faculties manners et al., and it is in this sense that the word has been adopted into business and corporate life.
Corporate culture represents the total sum of the mission, shared values, collective mindset, attitudes, processes, working environment, and traditions that mark the character of an organization. Very often a corporate culture is created by the founders of the organization, and their essential values are stamped upon the company’s ethics, morals, and function. A corporate culture is not the same as an organizational culture which describes the functioning of the human workforce within the organization, and the collective groupthink, behavior, and interaction between each other and the various stakeholders outside of the organization.
Senior management often imposes a corporate culture upon an organization. They attempt to cultivate the ethics, morals, business styles, groupthink, processes, and fundamental soil of the organization. Within any organization, there is an extant internal culture that affects the organization as a whole, and by importing a new culture the management hopes to impose new values that influence ethical standards and managerial behavior. This is seen as a long-term project, as it requires the understanding to be seeded within the individual and developed within. Like a plant or embryo, it takes time to grow. Some cultures are handicapped regarding timelines and the degree of receptivity to new ideas. For some cultures where values are placed more squarely upon the shoulders of the male whose nature is more instinctual, impulsive, combative, and protective, the capacity to be receptive to new ideas, a feminine prerogative, inhibits the inception and development of a new corporate culture. Furthermore, some cultures have limited time horizons, and place more value on the present rather than the future, where thrift, perseverance, and patience are a prerequisite. Others, where tradition and mutually benefiting relationships and favours are the norm, become mired in the ‘ how it is’ rather than going into the unknown and changing what has been.
There are several epistemological studies that are at variance with each other concerning corporate culture and its inception and development. However, if we look at an established corporation, whose corporate culture requires changing then we can take the attitude of Burman and Evans (see below) who argued that it is leadership rather than management that creates a change in corporate culture. They suggest that a visionary, powerful, hands-on, and exemplar of a leader has the downward push that can influence all those below. Conversely in the eighties, Linda Smircich (see below) suggested that a culture is like a plant with roots, and the roots of the organization – its history, varied players, and origins that made it up – also influence that which is above it. To carry forward this metaphor, when planted in loose soil, the underlying culture can easily be uprooted or create instability, but a culture placed in a receptive audience will create an entrepreneurially solid and stable foundation.
Burman R & Evans AJ (2008) Target Zero: A culture of safety, Defence Aviation Safety Center Journal, 2008 22-27
Smircich L & Morgan G (1982) Leadership: the management of meaning, Journal of Applied Behavioural Science 18(3) 257-273
Prevailing Corporate Cultures
Modern business practices are the fruit of the development of many hundreds of years of collective thinking. Successful companies have been analyzed, their market practices de-codified, intellectual and other habits of the major players or leaders of successful companies have been scrutinized, and strategies copied all of which have resulted in endless books written to facilitate the mimicry of success. Amongst the giants, there are often notable companies who endure and ride the waves and troughs of economic upheavals, altered markets, and intense competition. They thrive. What are their secrets? It would seem that all the major players have been primarily Western or else the accessibility of translated and similar studies and works have not been available in English. The opposite is possibly true in non-English speaking cultures where intellectual rigour has been applied to the whys and wherefores of successful companies, but these academics have no access to translated work from other cultures. In the West, the primary mode of business success has been the reward system. The reward system – bonuses, stock options, huge salaries, and retirement packages have been a huge motivational force. However, in these new times of globalization, it is now seen that this prevailing culture is being set aside for a new appreciation of other virtues, which have and will create an impetus within businesses that will foster different virtues than greed, profit, self-aggrandizement, and yet foster success. The new cultures will surely profit, becoming vanguards for this new millennia, as resources become less available and more expensive, and we become monitored for how we pollute, and when sweatshops and cheap labour may become less the factor of our business bottom line, but where stewardship, care and fostering a sustainability, and ecological-sound future will become the norm. Businesses to compete in this new era will have also to change their groupthink. Gone will be the easy money, and the short-term profits, and instead will be steady growth based on asset management, value-based services, and new products that will benefit humanity rather than the individual pocket and stock returns. Entrepreneurship is based on values. To do this the human will have to change. It is also clear in science today that motivational dynamics in human organizations is not the reward system, for in scientific tests they have found that those promised rewards do far less well than colleagues who are motivated by other intrinsic rewards. Time after time, those who were given monetary rewards performed less well than those who were given a substantive reward system not based on money but on values.
Almost all cultures within businesses have their own DNA or origin. The initial instructions, the root codon (see below), arise from the individual, local, and national environmental culture that the business originates in. The individual or group of individuals codes the instructions that develop from inception up, and these infiltrate and further encode others who join the business. This transfer of DNA material is accomplished by subtle or perverse indoctrination through information on the morality, ethics, and vision, of the company as these elements are formed, shaped, described, and voiced.
The specific sequence of tri-nucleotides that encode the instructions within genetic material. Contextually this language – a codon – is used to describe the original and specific sequence of data encoded in the business DNA.
Variants occur due to viral inserts (See below). A virus is an ancient entity, ubiquitously found in all ecosystems that can only replicate within a host. It contains DNA but is unable to replicate unless in a host that accepts or does not recognize what it is and provides an environment that accepts it. In nature this infection has a dual purpose, allowing for horizontal gene transfer and resultant increase in biological diversity, but the downside is the death or loss of vigor of less robust and adaptable organisms. In single-celled organisms, this lateral mode of transference of DNA appears to be very important and is quite different from vertical gene transfer from our ancestors. Be it as it may, this transference of DNA is mimicked in our human world through viral transference of thoughts and ideas – memes. These transfer new information to the host (business). Illness, just as in our own physical body occurs slowly. The stages of disease could be seen as five stages, although some of these may be bypassed depending on the toxicity of the infective agent or the mode of infection – what is altered in the organism.
Viral phenomena – these are objects or patterns (of thought, work ethic, inner dynamics, emotions) that infect those that they encounter, and make either copies of themselves or influence others to think, feel, and emote more like themselves. They are of course non-biological, and the term comes from the popularity of the internet where new ideas, and thoughts, abound. Their nature and content have sufficient force to change others when they meet them. Memes are very good examples of a viral phenomenon. We are all susceptible to viral ideas and their pull or influence. Memes such as this are a good example of the force of something bending us away from our own integrity or autonomy.
The seed virus is hosted and replicates. This is initially a localized infection.
Systemic infection occurs if the host is unable to stop this, as the overall physiological response to infection is compromised; pathophysiology occurs. Physiology (processes) become dominant. (Vegetal in dominance.)
Organ tissue and systemic physiology are unable to adapt and pathology occurs. The immuno-competency grows and develops power and immune cells to fight the virus. (Animal and Vegetal together, human in submissive–in the vegetal niche–state).
Physiology adapts locally or specifically (i.e. brain chemistry) and changes the psyche or mental faculties, which puts the patient into a low state, moribund, and inanimate. (human in the material niche).
Psychosis, schizophrenia, obsession, or various named or unnamed psychological problems ensue, and the patient remains in a submissive place, unable to move out of the situation. (Human and animal in the vegetal niche).
If we take this within a business environment as the host, the sequelae are very similar. The seed viral ideas (of discontent, fear, exodus, loss of hope) infect the organism. It is initially local. Nothing is done to stop it as there is no integrity in the organism and no communication to higher centres; it is initially contained, isolated, and yet develops slowly. The host is unable to contain it, and it infects neighbouring areas – departments. The classic water cooler effect. This contagion spreads through the system and infects other parts of the organism which then is translated as more disquiet, rumours develop and spread, and ideas exchanged grow disproportionately. The organism becomes infected globally and creates an environment that is not conducive to appropriate functioning. Some organisms will fail.
Within a successful and dynamic company, the overall well-being acts as the defensive capacity of the whole against unknown or toxic thoughts, and it is easily micromanaged, creating a hostile environment that prevents infection. In companies that are mismanaged, unable to adapt, have hidden agendas, are secretive, whose personnel have little authority, creativity, or autonomy in decision making, and where the prevailing culture is imposed rather than organic; and where the management does not mirror or embody the characteristics of the new or old culture, then viral elements easily take a foothold. They get inserted into the most vulnerable of the disenfranchised population within the business.
A new corporate culture aims to change the group’s think. It aims to put in step, that is have everyone marching with the same tune or beat. This doesn’t mean that everyone becomes the same, but all employees become a valued functional unit of the whole and who all speak for the same. This wholeness is usually obtained by meeting inner expectations. This means providing goals and vision that appeal to the collective and are not too far beyond their reach or understanding.
Implementing a corporate culture
There are several stages that need to be embodied to implement a new corporate culture. In keeping with the overall tenor of this work we will label ten distinct stages. Some of these stages represent the function of the human within the organization and others act as bridges or processes that enhance the development of the culture. These could be enumerated as the following, and they can be implemented either top-down or bottom-up:
Spiritual or Divine epistasis: the notion that a human, family, tribe, culture, or nation can act for the highest good as if guided or led by Higher guidance. In many nations, this is not allowed by constitutional law, where there is a separation between state and religion. That is, each human is allowed to operate freely within their own conscience and ethics and an injunction to follow a spiritual rather than a temporal compass is against personal freedom. A business or conglomerate of organizations can be efficiently run on higher ideals that are separate from the mission itself or parallel to it – an implicit acknowledgement of Nobility in practice. The suggestion is that nobility comes from a spiritual set of values and actions rather than secular notions and that nobility is conferred rather than attained – however with this in mind, we can convey, carry, and embody values of nobility through our words and deeds.
Mission: Create a mission statement; a vision and a goal that encompasses the strategic, moral, and ethical compass of the organization.
Surrender: to the Mission and corporate culture. The employees and management, Boards of Directors all are aligned with the Corporate Mission so that the whole workforce has a common unified vision and purpose. This common vision may or may not be aligned with the individual’s own purpose, but may complement it, be allied to it or be approximate to it.
Management: Create an internal environment within the organization, for both personal and the collective, that allows all to participate in the acknowledgement that human development and nous are sometimes incomplete, and that inner or spiritual guidance is an accepted process to allow for a common dynamic that allows for the unexpected.
Reflective: Senior management must act as exemplars; share in the commitment and vision, and provide insight into the benefits and gains rather than losses in the transformation. They must be able to objectively see those who are not filling their niche and allow them to be re-assigned or let go. They need to reflect and embody the new values.
Action: Management must model the expectant changes, and allow for new positions, niches taken, vacated, or made obsolete.
Creativity: allow and accommodate for change and make allowance for innovation and transformation; both vertical, horizontal, and autonomous capacity at all levels for creativity.
Adaptation and environment: allow for an environment that supports the changing climate; whether in work practice, processes, or individual behaviours and sensibilities of the employees.
Contact and communication: to set up efficient IT and modes of communication both vertically and horizontally so that all staff are adequately informed, supported and listened to, but also have recourse to, open lines of communication through all levels, if needs be.
Foundational stability: whereby new core values and sensibilities are seeded and fostered at the foundational level of the business. That base staff contains the core principles at their most basic understanding and implementation. This endeavor must be supported by a stable, economically viable business, with available resources – information in its many guises – that support the foundation of the mission.