Institutional Personality

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 РI imagine Рhave 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 Рso 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.


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