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Herman's notes on The Power of Team Culture

Completed in December 2021 Certificate
An anthropologist studying the Motorola corporation back in the 1980s and 90s, heard people in meetings regularly utter the phrase, the dog will eat it. Motorola was, of course, a pioneer in the cell phone industry. It was a tech company and then largely run by technical people. The anthropologist wondered at the meaning of the phrase, but it eventually became clear to her what it meant. We technical people will come up with clever inventions, and no matter what it is, the people will buy it. Hence, the dog will eat it. Over time, however, Motorola began to lose market share. And so, like their competitors, they started paying more attention to what their customers actually wanted in the way of technology.
I never liked the term dogfooding.
Nancy Rothbard, professor at Penn's Wharton School, argues that it is better to hire based on cultural fit rather than skills or experience. She says, quote, the question hiring managers should be looking to answer is, does this candidate's values align with those of the company? Be they work-life balance, corporate mission, or how to handle a customer phone call.
I would go further and argue that it is better to *get hired* based on cultural fit rather than skills or experience.
I propose to use the term cultural boundary to refer to any difference in culture. Such as socially acquired preconceived routines for a specific situation between two individuals or groups or between an individual and a group. Not only a small difference, mini-cultural boundaries, but even small differences can affect team performance.
If this last part is true, I wonder what I can do to improve our team's performance.
For example the popular American rapper Kanye West is seen as someone who never smiles. West himself claims his non-smiling is culturally acquired. His serious demeanor he says, came from looking at pictures in a book from the 1800's. In the online Lifestyle News site, high-snobiety as in society mixed together with snob, high snobeity. He also stated, when you see paintings in an old castle, people are not smiling because it just wouldn't look as cool. It could be of course that he is in the forefront of a new trend. And that 20 years from now, Americans will not be smiling.
Eastern-european people started this trend, America is behind 😅
I was told that when Nixon was the vice president of the United States during the Presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower, he visited Brazil. Perhaps this was in connection with the inauguration of the Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek. In any case, the story goes that he was in a motorcade and standing in the back of his vehicle, he gave what in America is the okay gesture with both hands, something like this. And, actually we can show you maybe a photograph of that here. Here it is. Now, in Brazil a very similar gesture is quite obscene, It has a sexual connotation and I'm not going to tell you what that is but, maybe you can do an internet search and find it. Really, it's in some ways closest analogue in American culture is what's known as the middle finger gesture or flipping the bird or simply giving someone the finger.
My manager, who is from Brazil, told me that this is farfetched. The offensive symbol is the up-side-down 👌. I remeber in my highschool people were playing a game where if you get caought looking at someone's 👌 below the belt line, you get a punch in the arm. I never understood why.
The emotional purpose of initiation rites as condensation symbols is to get the initiates to feel that they have crossed a threshold, that they are now a different person, a new person. They have become a team member. The initiation is not just about skills and understanding. It's also about feelings. The ceremony helps to emotionally attach the initiate to the new team they had just joined. Whether that team is adult society, a fraternity, a sports team or a company. Another type of ritual found in companies is the awards ceremony. Individuals or teams get recognized for their performance on the job.
I like this one
In the business world, the idea of initiation is to introduce new employees to the team culture, they will need to acquire to function as part of the team. In unit one of this course, for example, we talked about how large corporations, JetBlue and McDonald's Often have their own universities. These provide practical training, but they also have their own purely symbolic elements. Some of these are captured on videos accessible through the internet. We see shots, for example, of the Jet Blue university students singing songs about their experiences at the university. In others, class valedictorians give speeches in graduation ceremonies reminiscent of colleges and universities. At McDonald's Hamburger University students actually receive a diploma, indicating that they have earned a Bachelor of Hamburgerology. I'm not kidding about that, it's true.
Coursera could help corporations with this.
Let me articulate the secret to successful culture change this way. The new culture must appear to grow organically out of the old culture. It must be new enough to be recognizable as different but also sufficiently similar that its relationship to the old culture can be sensed.
Culture as scarce commodity.
An interview with a night club exotic dancer stands out in my memory. The interview was actually done by one of my former students, not by me. When the student asked the dancer what she would be doing if she were independently wealthy and did not need to work, the woman said she would definitely not be an exotic dancer. But she went on to clarify that people have the mistaken idea that the dancers hate stripping and only do it for the money. She explained that if you saw how much the girls and here I'll quote,love what they do, unquote you would come away with a different opinion. Well, there's something to think about.
They are the true artists.
Many business people trained only in economics among the social sciences think of people as purely rational actors. The deployment of money on a team, such as a business enterprise, is seen in terms of rational market exchange. But people in teams are motivated by more than money, or the fear of punishment. They are guided also by the shining ideals that the team embodies, ideals that they try to live up to in their daily lives and activities. In my many years of interviewing CEOs and other team leaders, I find that the very best ones understand this intuitively. They know how to employ symbols, including themselves as symbols, to motivate the group around team goals. Such leaders are in a way also natural anthropologists. They intuitively understand the flow of culture. Still even if we're not natural leaders the rest of us by studying team culture, and the principles of its motion can become better leaders and better team players.
This is a specialization.