Extrapolating from what is seen

Since the 1980s, the terms culture and organisation culture have become possibly two of the most used, but also misused, terms in organisations and in organisation development.

There is general agreement that there is some unifying concept, force or mindset that affects all aspects of human-related functioning both in societies and in business. There is also a large degree of agreement regarding the influence this “force” has on organisational functioning. The difficulty is in defining, describing and understanding this invisible yet powerful concept. There seem to be almost as many descriptors and definitions as there are articles on the topic. This is not a negative reflection on the researches and authors; it is a reflection on the complexity of the concept. The reality is that describing culture is very similar to the difficulties faced in describing personality. With that said, consider the number of personality theories that exist each with its own followers.

An analogy heard many years ago, helps clarify why there are so many different views definitions and opinions on culture – and for that matter personality.

“Imagine a big building with only very small windows in a dark forest and no lights on. Next, imagine people on the outside looking through one of the small windows and trying to describe what is going on inside. People can only describe what they see through their small window.”

Today we start with the first in a series of reflections on what has been more than 25 years of trying to see through many “darkened windows” and trying to understand the intricacies and complexities of organisation culture.

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