People & Human Resources

Culture fits or culture mis-fits is the wrong distinction

Michel Hogan /

“Culture fit is a recipe for groupthink—it weeds out diversity of thought.”

Psychologist, Wharton Professor and author Adam Grant posted the above quote on LinkedIn last week. I think it depends on your workplace culture.

What is culture? My definition: what we value and how we are together.

Grant’s post continued:

“Hire, reward, and promote cultural contributors: the misfits, original thinkers, and disagreeable givers who stretch and enrich the culture.”

I’m sure there are people who would not ascribe to those categories. Is he saying they don’t contribute to the workplace culture? I don’t think so. Culture acts like a culture – it grows when you feed it. Perhaps his point is to look at what you’re feeding it.

Your values are the foundation of your culture, and they play a ready hand in shaping how the organisation will be together. What do you value as a group? The ‘how we do things around here’ stuff you share is the short-list; keeping your values to a short-list is one way to avoid groupthink.

I worked with an organisation once who had just three values: curiosity, irreverence and hard work. They shared those traits in spades, were almost manically rigorous about them and showed diversity and flex across lots of others. Result – no group think in sight, but there was certainly a right fit.

To learn more about the relationship between workplace culture and brand click here.

Of course, all values can (and usually do) have a dark side, and you need vigilance around how they get enacted. Culture can feel sustaining and affirming or toxic and destructive.

If the culture you’re trying to fit values indifference and compliance, Grant’s first point is on the money. Original thinkers will run screaming, disagreeable givers will be ejected by the other chimps, and groupthink will run amok.

However, if you value curiosity and irreverence, those same people will likely feel right at home and groupthink won’t have a place to thrive.

So to fit or misfit is the wrong question. Look instead at what you fit for.

See you next week.

NOW READ:“Expect the wheels to fall off on culture”: How SafetyCulture is refreshing itself after a year of massive growth

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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