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Insights by Agilicist

Social Conformity Leadership and Cultural Change

I recently saw a video on social conformity that caught my eye, a modern take of the classic psychology experiment by Asch (1951).

The video shows a group of people, majority actors and one being the ‘test subject’ sitting in a waiting room and rising everytime there is a beep. The ‘test subject’ eventually joins in, although confused at first. Once she is the only one left in the room she continues to rise on the beep. Watching this, even I thought, "I would never do that" however social conformity is often a subconscious, under the radar thing.

What a powerful video! It got me thinking that, how much of an impact culture in an organisation has on people's behaviours...

So what is Organisational Culture?

I understand it to be all of a company’s beliefs, values and attitudes, and how these influence the behaviour of its employees

Culture typically shows itself through people’s behaviour and is often defined as ‘the way we do things round here’ . It’s the under the surface stuff, the core of a person, the beliefs, assumptions, values and attitudes within an organisation which drive what’s above the surface. Families, religions, friends, communities, businesses and nations all have their own cultures.

It is the culture that determines success or failure in a business.

A great example of a company praised for their forward-thinking culture is Salesforce. Salesforce has shown over and over again its culture of giving – to its employees as well as to the community. In addition to perks like a wellness reimbursement program that gives employees $100 every month to use on health and fitness programs, the company has reported more than 1.3 million volunteer hours and donated over $100 million in grants. Not only that, employees are given 7 paid days off per year to volunteer.

Conformity & Cultural Change

More and more, lately we are hearing, well at least in our industry, that people do want to work with their culture and change it. Though one of the hardest things to do is to change behaviours in an organisation, unless you get the majority on board with it as per the video, the rest will follow.

The key is getting the Leadership to start the change, people often lead by example. Without Leadership support this will always be an uphill battle. This video showing the conformity experiment is a powerful reminder that people will follow the behaviour of others.

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