Let’s come back to that bit about culture and the quote from the interview with the HBS authors from awhile back:
A culture exists to influence how people think, so their discretionary behavior will be consistent with the values of the organization. In services, almost all behavior is discretionary. You have the moving parts of human beings delivering services interacting with human beings as customers. Culture is the guiding force; it’s the difference between the positive experience you have when you interact with someone at Zappos’s call center and the experience you have at XYZ call center that makes you decide to take your business elsewhere. [emphasis added]
(The interview with Anne Morriss and Frances Frei was posted on the HBS Working Knowledge site .)
Now, some may get a little paranoid about this. If her statement is true, and “culture exists to influence how people think” then maybe you need to worry about getting brainwashed at bschool! Well actually yes, bschool is a brainwashing, isn’t it? And not to get all metosophical on you but you’ve already been brainwashed if you think you need to go to bschool in the first place.
But that’s a dangerous tangent. We’ll skip that for now. The main point we wanted to offer up today is that ALL schools have a culture, as do all other types of organizations and other groups of human beings coming together for any purpose. All cultures have good aspects and not-so-good; all cultures will be more comfortable for certain types of people than others. This is just how stuff works.
Some schools put a lot of emphasis on culture – and they put their money where their mouth is, in terms of putting initiatives in place to build a particular culture internally and reinforce the things that they care about, multiyear initiatives among faculty and staff and priorities in recruiting and admissions and components to their required core for students.
But not all schools do this. Some of them pay lipservice to it—just like you played lipservice to the concept of “teamwork” in those essays you wrote. You can play Buzzword Bingo at most any school’s info session and you’re gonna score on “culture” every time (and probably also on “teamwork” and “leadership” and “diversity” too). But believe you us, EVERY school has a culture. Not every culture will be appealing to you. This is just how these things work. Evaluating a school on this dimension can be very informative and helpful in the bschool selection process.
After all, you’re going to spend TWO YEARS at the place. You’d better find one that you resonate with or you’re not gonna have a very good time there.