Saturday, March 2, 2019

Finding your company’s cultural sweet spot

strategy+business, March 1, 2019

by Theodore Kinni

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a pretty tasty bon mot, though it’s doubtful that Peter Drucker, who usually gets credit for it, actually cooked it up. It can also cause severe indigestion when leaders ignore it. If you’re tempted to join them, read Rule Makers, Rule Breakers, by University of Maryland, College Park, psychology professor Michele Gelfand.

Gelfand has been studying culture and social norms for more than 20 years. Ever wonder why conjuring up a “burning platform” galvanizes workers instead of sending them scurrying for the exit doors? It’s the same reason that the heartbeats of firewalkers in the Spanish village of San Pedro Manrique, as well as the people watching them, become synchronized. It’s also why test subjects who eat fiery chili peppers together report a higher sense of bonding, and work better together in subsequent economic games. “Social norms, like participating in rituals, can increase group cohesion and cooperation,” says Gelfand.

Social norms are the glue that holds groups together. “They give us our identity, and help us coordinate in unprecedented ways,” Gelfand writes. “Yet cultures vary in the strength of their social glue, with profound consequences for our worldviews, our environments, and our brains.” And for companies, too. Read the rest here.

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