What gets in?

do not enter

I grew up in NW Iowa, and we used to enjoy making fun of our neighboring states, especially Nebraska. If someone from our class was visiting Nebraska for some reason, we would say “don’t get caught trying to cross the state line with any books, or they will get confiscated!” Maybe you needed to be there, but it was pretty funny. Now that I live in Nebraska, I enjoy making the same joke about Kansas.

Does your organization allow information from the outside to come inside?

My last post discussed assimilation vs. inclusion, and it is a bit of a flawed comparison. Assimilation and inclusion are not really opposites the way that I set them up, and neither one of them is a fixed destination. Most social groups are probably an in-flux mix of both inclusion and assimilation, but I still think it can be a valuable exercise to compare and contrast the two to shine some light on your own culture.

As I said in that post, in my experience most organizations (including those that trumpet their inclusion efforts loudly and proudly) tend to be very assimilative. There is a whole bunch of unwritten rules about what it means to belong here, unwritten rules that are about membership not performance, and there are subtle and overt consequences to breaking those rules. A little bit of assimilation is okay, there is a certain amount of this involved in joining any social group. But too much assimilation quickly becomes a dangerous thing.

What are the unwritten rules where you work?

A few really common unwritten rules:

  • There are things we do not discuss. Do not discuss those things.
  • Keep bad news to yourself.
  • The only acceptable emotions at work are happy, focused and busy.

Too much assimilation makes learning and adapting difficult for a group or an organization. New members naturally carry new and novel ideas, practices and perspectives with them, which, if shared, can benefit the group. If there is too much pressure to fit neatly in though, new members are more likely to keep their ideas, questions and experiences to themselves.

New information can be disruptive, vague, confusing and inefficient. It is also vital to learning, resilience, adaptability, creativity and innovation. If your culture is too assimilative, new information stays on the outside and the collective stops learning. That means an expiration date has been stamped on your relevance.

Assimilation makes managing and organizing much easier, inclusion can deliver greater outcomes, but requires different approaches to managing and organizing all together.

Be good to each other.


contact       brand management by venn market strategies