Fake Culture

After seeing Trump’s jet parked at LaGuardia airport this afternoon, we reflected on the accusations of fake news…which led us to think about all the fake sightings of culture.
Fake culture is all the surface level objects that people point to as culture. These are artifacts of culture which give clues into the deeper layers of culture. You may have heard the saying, “there is more than meets the eye.” That is a very good way to think about real culture. It goes beyond what you see around you.
Culture is NOT:

  • Foosball tables, flip flops and free beer Fridays
  • A fabulous set of values written on the walls
  • Colorful office walls, open concept workspaces and standing desks
  • A style of dress. Suits, uniforms, or hoodies and distressed jeans (how much did you pay for jeans with holes?!) may be the prevailing dress code, but are not culture
  • Fun food and free drinks (no – a whiskey bar is lots of fun and totally on trend, but it’s not culture!)
  • Nap pods and meditation rooms
  • Quirky CEO’s with cool concepts and hot off the press books
  • Slogans, T-shirts or campaigns

Most people can agree on the fact that culture exists and that it influences behavior in organizations. What is not so widely agreed upon is the precise definition of organizational culture.
At the foundational level, culture is the collection of deeply held beliefs and assumptions that drives behavior. It’s why we do what we do.
Getting culture defined correctly matters, because a lot of time and resources are poured into things that are falsely labeled culture. There are hundreds of different assessments that claim to measure culture. Unfortunately, many lack the academic rigor and supporting culture development philosophies that enable leaders to make real shifts in their culture. There are a few surveys that can help you understand what culture is driving your organization. If you’re interested in hearing about what we like to use with our clients, send us an email!

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