6 Types Of Culture

The cultures of Rip Curl surfboards and JP Morgan start with the way they dress and the way they talk. Culture is most noticeable in extrinsic observables. Culture, in many ways, reflects the style and tone of our customer. Customers shape the culture of our companies. This is most evident in small entrepreneurial teams. Silicon Valley has a very distinctive image and external culture, as does Wall Street.

Culture building reflects the customer and more deeply the customers’ values. Culture building works best when the company and customer values are shared, i.e. a pharmaceutical company and doctors who are both truthful and passionate about patient care.

Company culture, a collection of people, has both inherent strengths and weakness, just like its constituents. And culture is more than how we dress and talk. Culture is not just a part of the business, it is the business! Just as the culture of You, is not part of you – it’s You.

Culture eats strategy for lunch. ~ Peter Drucker

HBR and Edgar Schwab have identified the 4 key cultural attributes, as:

Shared. Culture is a group of behaviors, values, experiences, and expectations.

Pervasive. Culture includes the hidden motivations, mindsets, assumptions, and the mental model of how we interpret the world around us.

Enduring. Benjamin Schneider noted “we are drawn to organizations that are similar to us, and where we fit.” Those not fitting in will leave, thereby creating a self-reinforcing social pattern.

Implicit. People are wired to recognize and respond to culture instinctively. We learned as cave people we could beat a lion as a tribe, not as individuals. E.O. Wilson and Shalom Schwartz have shown tribe culture is quickly sensed and universal.

As reported by Jeremiah Lee, Boris Groysberg, and Jesse Price in HBR January 2018, every culture has its strengths and limitations. The research into 232 companies and 1,300 executives has suggested the top 5 Key Cultural Types and in what % they appear as either 1 or 2 styles in the research, are:

Style Advantage Disadvantage
#1 Results (89%) High execution and achievement Stress and anxiety


#2 Caring (63%) Improved teamwork, engagement, and trust


Over-emphasis on consensus, reducing risk, exploration, and decision-making
#3 Order (15%) Operationally efficient, less conflict Over-emphasis on rules and traditions, stifling creativity, and organization agility
#4 Purpose (9%) Appreciation for diversity sustainability, and social responsibility Long term ideals may slow down practical and immediate concerns
#5 Safety (8%) Improves risk management, stability, and responsiveness


Over-emphasis on standardization, leading to bureaucracy and inflexibility
#6 Learning (7%) Improves innovation and agility


Over-emphasis on exploration, lack of focus, inability to leverage current advantages

Now what?

  • Check your team style and possible unintended effects.  
  • Identify subcultures impacting performance.
  • Onboard new employees rapidly
  • Check alignment of individuals and team against expectations
  • Plan for a future culture paradigm

In this research, the two most popular cultural styles  were results and caring. This may confuse or unite, depending on the overt communication and training of people and teams to clarify expectations. There will be trade-offs, and the savvy leaders will make use of existing cultural knowledge for long term and lasting success

Phew, culture-building sure seems a lot harder than just cutting the grass.  Yes, it takes time, energy, and effort, to create a beautiful garden.


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