I’m very interested in understanding what defines the character of an institution. I come at this question from a particularly civic angle, so I think not only of office cultures, but of government institutions and informal associations.
The institutional character of a book club is no doubt different than that of a Fortune 500 company, but are there common continua of typology they can be placed on?
In a book club, the individual participants – I imagine – have more agency. The club may have rules and norms, but each person participating is likely to have relatively equal voice. The stakes for exit are generally pretty low – so if a book club becomes an unpleasant experience, the sensible thing to do is leave.
A work environment is not quite the same. While quitting is always an option, leaving a job can be a very stressful, high stakes experience. The alternative is not necessarily better, so sometimes it’s easier to suffer through a moderately annoying workplace.
There are plenty of management experts who could present no end to models of group dynamics in a work environment, but I think my question is slightly different than that.
An institution – whether a book club or company – is more than the sum of people in a room. A community of people takes on its own personality – separate, though intimately linked to the characteristics of the people who make it up.