Reading publications on culture sometimes times reminds one of a group of blindfolded people touching different parts of an elephant and each coming to their personal conclusion about what it is. One thing that cultural practitioners do however agree on is that culture is an intangible, vague, complex, and very large concept. Working through the literature on the subject makes it even more difficult given the different descriptors of culture and a number of seemingly contradictory truths”.
Part of the difficulties of studying culture can be summarised with two quotes. The process starts with the reality that “to think about anything requires an image or concept of it” (Gharajedaghi, 1999). Creating these models or images, unfortunately, comes with a proviso in that they must “reflect the dynamic behaviour within organisations … [for if they don’t] … we have to question their credibility in enabling us to manage the organization effectively.” (Hoyle 2009).
After 25 years of trying to find an acceptable model, it can be said that the most difficult aspect is to stop thinking that you know. To manage your personal paradigms and to remain open to new perspectives. As Tolstoy (1897) said; “The simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”
In a previous blog we started with an overview of systems. In this reflection we take it further and discuss a few of the concepts that helped shape our understanding of culture.