Friday, October 30, 2009

What defines the "culture" of a place?

The sum of its parts.

Have you ever noticed that certain countries seem to have different "personalities"? Have you noticed how different the personalities of people in France and Germany seem to be? What about Iceland and Mexico? How about with companies? Is the corporate "culture" at Goldman Sachs different than the one at Walmart? How about with schools? Is the collective personality of the University of Texas at Austin different than the one at Stanford?

So, what accounts for these personality/culture differences if each of the groups in the categories mentioned (countries, schools, companies) seem to have similar demographics - people, gender, age, educational backgrounds, etc. ?

Personality or "culture" is actually defined by the sum of its component parts (its individuals) - from the personality of a single individual, to that of a Club with 10 members, to that of a Company with 100 employees, to that of a University with 10,000 students, to that of a country with 10 million people.

When people talk about joining a group and seeking some sort of culture fit, they are actually onto something. Belonging to a group that matches your own personality and aspirations is a very positive experience. Belonging to a group that does not, is not very fun. The problem is that it takes time to get to know a group's culture. You cannot define what it is from a one day visit, or a day of interviews, or a 2 day vacation.

So, look around you. How do the cultures/personalities of the groups and subgroups that you are part of match your own? Are they a good fit? Are the groups influencing your own personality/culture in a positive or negative way? Do you need to fix or change something? If so, start today.

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