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Culture Fit + Models of Interaction + Pragmatism / Idealism = Progress

Meghan M. Biro
  • On April 14, 2010
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/
Meghan M. Biro
by
April 14, 2010

Culture has always fascinated me. In the TalentCulture community we like to think of it in two ways (thanks to www.Dictionary.com): first, as the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent; and second, as the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. Clearly culture has many complex dimensions (why it interests me so much), particularly organizational culture, as Chris Jones, our community member who is interested in complexity and change, points out in his interesting series of posts that begin here.

I help companies build a strong culture through the people they hire, which is a pragmatic approach to building a community of culture that encompasses people, values and ideals. People in our community also discuss culture as a personal topic, investigating ways to align personality and corporate culture to create the ‘fit’ necessary for a positive career experience. And we look at it as a social construct, because I believe strongly in the principles of social entrepreneurship, which combine the sometimes opposing forces of pragmatism and idealism.

When cultures fit, an organization can transcend problems, innovate and flourish. Without culture fit, an organization and its members will fail to thrive and will always be vulnerable in the face of innovative challengers.

Building a corporate and community culture requires several kinds of interaction: transactional, transformational, and tacit. I adopted this model from McKinsey & Company and SandHill.com, which reported on it way back in their Software 2006 Industry Report.

Transactional interactions are repeatable and rules-based. People receive reward and achieve success through these interactions because they have relatively equal and predictable value for the participants. From a culture standpoint this is table stakes: you need to have a level playing field where the rules are well understood for all participants to benefit.

Transformational interactions are also an essential component of business culture. Something is transformed from one state into another; in the McKinsey model this may be one thing being transformed into something else, but from a culture point of view I see it as an interaction where one participant benefits from and is transformed as a result of the interaction. It may not be an equal exchange, but there is value to both parties. As an example, the relationship between a career strategist and a job seeker should be transformational.

Tacit interactions are a bit more difficult to define – Ross Mayfield describes them as “judgment or insight applied to complex communications or problem solving”. Applied to the issue of culture, I view this as a shared trust that enables a deep and more valuable interaction – a sustainable competitive advantage – what I hope to help our participants develop through the efforts of the TalentCulture community.

I have no doubt that creating a social community requires interactions that encompass idealism and pragmatism: idealism because the intent is to do good things socially through the community; pragmatism because there must be some return on investment to the community’s participants or they won’t be engaged in the community. And of course this requires culture.

The TalentCulture business and community model is focused on culture: how it’s developed and how participants in our community benefit. In the TC community we create valuable interactions that can help job seekers find the right company, give career experts a place to discuss workplace and hiring issues, and provide an environment with the resources and depth of thought to add to the many facets an organization’s culture and growth quotient.

A positive culture translates into progress for employer and employee, and it turns out progress is what we crave most. We want to know we completed a task, created a winning strategy, and satisfied a difficult customer. We want to keep moving forward. In the TalentCulture community we will explore culture in both a corporate and social community context. We will give hiring managers the tools and insight to align their company’s cultures, building strong communities of culture between management and employees. We will talk about culture and communication and progress – always progress.

Help us make this a better and useful place. Tell us what progress and culture mean to you. How do you define your culture? What does progress mean to you?

  • http://hrmarketer.blogspot.com/ Kevin W. Grossman

    Wow. You are a cultural anthropology nerd. In a very good way.
    ;)

    Transactional is the easy part. Transformational and tacit not so easy, but are vital to the livelihood and longevity of any social organism — i.e., businesses, non-profits, associations, families, etc.

    Progress for me via social cultural entity includes personal growth (are my needs being met), collaborative growth (are the needs of my team/cohorts being met) and overall organizational/business growth (if it ain’t, then the first two aren’t being met and you’re out of luck).

    That’s what this place means to me.

    Great post, Meghan.

  • http://www.steveboese.squarespace.com Steve Boese

    Meghan – Love the piece. To me, the idea of transformational culture is really interesting. People all have their perspectives, experiences, values etc. that they bring to an organization and to the community. How the organization and the individuals can be transformed by their interactions with each other, in the context of working and connecting is fascinating. I think that the smartest organizations and the most successful communities will seek to understand and leverage the wide range of individual perspectives.

  • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

    Kevin, Thank you. Indeed.

    My inner nerd is alive + well. Certainly one facet of my personality ;-)

    You are correct – the overall theme here is sustainability in each facet of an organization and social community. Not a simple equation and one that simply takes time and care. When you move beyond mere transactional the real fun begins! Glad to have you here for the ride.

  • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

    Steve, Delighted you stopped by! Thank you for sharing.

    Agree, organizations/communities that become transformational will thrive and grow – even in the most uncertain times. I enjoy a wide angle when it comes to individual perspectives – it adds interesting dimension and depth to the people + culture quotient.

  • http://www.careertrend.net Master Resume Wirter

    Meghan,
    Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Balancing pragmatism and idealism is not easy, but is something I aspire to … daily! So glad you see this as a ‘goal’ of TalentCulture. So delighted I can participate as that goal converts to results.

    Tacit interactions also resonates, and mostly because of your ‘view’ of this term, helping me wrap my mind around it: “shared trust that enables a deep and more valuable interaction.” Further, the language, “sustainable competitive advantage” perks my business /e ntrepreneurial ears! Thank you!

    Progress, yet another word that defines the ultimate movement sparked by this community of talent and culture.

    For me, defining culture and its value to my interaction with colleagues and clients is an ongoing discovery. At present, I see my clients (job seekers) struggling to find both culture and overall job / career fit, as companies struggle to regroup and revive (often, therefore, ultra-focused on bottom line vs. the intangibles of culture). That said, the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudging via conversations, blog posts, etc. such as this forum, helps inspire cultural improvements.

    A great post!
    Jacqui

  • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

    Thank you Jacqui! Appreciate your thoughtful + encouraging feedback. Pragmatism + Idealism do not need to be opposing character views. I’m committed to providing ample space + time to each as we grow + continue to find meaning. Yes, clearly a fine balance.

    Progress is defined by tiny movements (actions!) when distilling large topics like these. Culture has many levels + implications. Let’s continue to shed light and discuss here at the Culture of Talent.

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