Mark Higginson

How attention flows on the web


27 February 2013

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly.

What Your Culture Really Says

Wow. The above is a from a fantastic post that questions the underlying aspects of the so-called ‘company culture’, particular the type peculiar to modern internet / technology focused businesses. I’ve even heard the phrase “we need to be more like a start-up” bandied around former workplaces, the implicit assumption being that people know what this signifies.

My focus on this blog has been mainly related to the discipline in which I work and frequently how assumptions negatively affect people’s perception of what is actually going on. An off-shoot of this stuff is the idea that ‘we’ are building a new type of business ‘culture’. It is a curious form of groupthink that claims to present an alternative when in actual fact it is an evolution of existing power dynamics.

A good example of this is the ‘leaked’ Valve employee handbook that people got very excited about in April of last year. It promises a ‘flat’ management structure, self-selection of projects, etc. A couple of weeks back Valve disposed of some staff. As some wag commented presumably these people all fired themselves?

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