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Create Constructive Cultures and Impact the World

By Robert Cooke, Ph.D.

Over 30 years of research across thousands of organizations using the Organizational Culture Inventory® has shown positive relationships between Constructive cultural norms (that is, expectations for members to behave constructively in order to “fit in”) and motivation, engagement, teamwork, quality, external adaptability and, ultimately, profitability.


Constructive Cultures

Constructive cultures are those in which members are encouraged to interact with people and approach tasks in ways that will help them meet their higher order satisfaction needs.  Constructive “norms” measured by the culture survey include:

  • Achievement—Members are expected to set challenging goals, establish plans to reach those goals, and pursue them with enthusiasm.
  • Self-Actualizing—Members are expected to enjoy their work, develop themselves, and take on new and interesting activities.
  • Humanistic-Encouraging—Members are expected to be supportive, helpful, and open to influence in their dealings with one another.
  • Affiliative—Members are expected to be friendly, cooperative, and sensitive to the satisfaction of their work group.

Unfortunately, the behavioral norms that prevail in most organizations are Defensive rather than Constructive:

  • Passive/Defensive Cultures: Members believe they must interact with people in self-protective ways that will not threaten their own security (with norms requiring Approval, Conventional, Dependent and Avoidance behaviors).
  • Aggressive/Defensive Cultures: Members are expected to approach tasks in forceful ways to maintain their status and security (with norms requiring Oppositional, Power, Competitive, and Perfectionistic behaviors).

It is important to reiterate that Constructive norms lead to organizational effectiveness and sustainability.  In contrast, Passive/Defensive norms inhibit performance and increase the vulnerability of organizations; Aggressive/Defensive norms, while possibly conveying the appearance of effectiveness, mainly produce volatility and inconsistent performance.  And, across societies, the Constructive styles are associated with World Competitiveness (as measured by IMD of Switzerland) and other important factors such as civil liberties and human rights (as measured by Freedom House).  The Defensive styles are negatively related to such outcomes.

Constructive Culture Blog

The Constructive Culture blog is being launched to develop and disseminate ideas about how to effectively build and sustain Constructive cultures. A global movement toward Constructive norms in organizations will shift societal values in a positive direction and lead to even greater advancement across the world.

We hope you will enjoy and find useful the content at and engage in the dialogue on social media.  The infographic below highlights the clear benefits of Constructive Cultures. Click here to download a PDF.


Editor’s note: the post for next week will be based on a discussion between Rob Cooke and Edgar Schein regarding the “common ground” of qualitative and quantitative approaches to culture development.


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