culture is a group exercise in finding meainng

So you’ve probably wondered recently, why is the idea of company culture suddenly such a big deal in management circles? Why does HBR keep going on about it? Why do so many business books have the word, “Culture” in the title? What happened? Why now?

I see mainly two reasons. The first being, that in the “always-on” business culture (which entails such jollies as bringing sleeping bags into work, answering your boss’ emails at2a.m., or having zero friends outside your industry), this means we don’t get have time to develop outside lives, so to compensate we try to make our jobs more like our outside lives. Work-life balance is replaced with work-life integration. Not very family-friendly, but it works for some, especially young people wanting to get ahead.

The second is the decline of mainstream religion in public life, which means people are projecting religious behaviors onto non-religious activities. Good examples are Crossfit, political activism, Burning Man, music concerts, and yes, even our jobs.

People are meaning-hunting machines. It’s not that life is short which is terrifying, it’s lack of meaning in our lives that terrifies us.

So we work like hell to infuse meaning into our existence. And ideally, since we have to be there most of our working hours, we want our jobs to make said infusion easier and less painful.

That’s why people are willing to work so hard at restaurants, or journalism, or painting, or opening a weightlifting gym, even if the money is often well below par. Because for many, doing something meaningful is more important than the money.

So when you start that new job at that new company and notice that everyone in the office is WAY more enthusiastic than normal, realize that it’s for a reason. And that the reason is not just about the business at hand.

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