Large scale mobilization and alignment of people, united through common goals yet everybody is in different and diverse roles with a large proportion of volunteers: I am describing a typical social movement. But I want to describe corporate culture in the same way.
We need to think of corporate culture as a social movement. There is a lot to be gained by this. Don’t think of corporate culture as a large classroom where everybody gets messages and is trained. Or the sum of regulations and policies. Or a set of labels that somebody has created: entrepreneurial, mature, authoritarian, engineering, agile, customer focused, etc.
Culture needs a shared understanding, a common language, a common sense of purpose and a shared commitment to action. It does not need a cloning system for people but rather an environment where people can share their dreams; where company dreams are compatible with personal dreams. They don’t have to be the same.
Business organizations who have developed their thinking from the teachings of traditional business schools, are at a disadvantage. The best source of inspiration and learning on corporate cultures comes from studying social movements. Many well orchestrated political campaigns have a lot to teach us.
The Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 have been fundamental to understanding large scale mobilization. I have dissected them in detail through the lens of my organizational work. It has convinced me of two things: (a) Viral Change TM (behavioural, bottom-up, peer-to-peer) is the modern answer to organizational and cultural change; (b) 90% of my (large), traditional organizational development library is as relevant as the telegraph is in today’s modern communications.