What COVID reveals about culture

When crisis hits, dysfunctional organisations have nowhere to hide.

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

We all know what culture eats for breakfast, and that most organisational problems are unlikely to go away unless we improve the culture. This was true before the pandemic, but the importance of culture has only been exacerbated by the global crisis. 

There are three main reasons for this. First, the crisis has amplified the gap between more and less adaptive cultures. To highlight just a few culture dimensions that were already sought after before – but have been critical in mitigating the negative impact of the pandemic on organisations – fluid, flexible, agile, inclusive, entrepreneurial, ethical and of course data-driven cultures have all shown a much stronger propensity to resist (and even thrive during) this crisis. 

That is the main difference between organisations that had to do very little to change their habits – because people were already working from home, collaborating globally, evaluated for what they actually contribute and had great trust in their leaders – and those that felt like dinosaurs hit by an asteroid. We've been saying this for a while: hierarchical, rigid, formal, political and nepotistic cultures are a death sentence for organisations. But the crisis has proved this.

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