Create Constructive Cultures and Impact the World

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. The Constructive organizational culture “norms” measured by our validated 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 workgroup.

Generally speaking, a Constructive organizational culture is created from the top and through a planned and concerted effort by leaders. Unfortunately, due to the absence of such efforts, the behavioral norms that emerge and prevail in most organizations are security-oriented and 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 or implicitly required 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 cultural norms lead not only to member engagement and retention but also to organizational effectiveness and sustainability. In contrast, Passive/Defensive cultural norms inhibit motivation and 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 strength of Constructive culture norms 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 Passive/ and Aggressive/Defensive culture 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 organizational cultures. A global movement toward stronger Constructive culture 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 some of the research demonstrating the important benefits of Constructive Organizational 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.

About the Author

Avatar photo
Robert Cooke, Ph.D.

Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. is CEO and Director of Human Synergistics International and Associate Professor Emeritus of Management at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Cooke specializes in the development and validation of surveys used for individual, group, and organization development. His surveys include the Organizational Culture Inventory®, Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®, Leadership/Impact®, and Group Styles Inventory™, which have been translated into numerous languages and used worldwide for developing leaders, teams, and organizations. He is the author of more than 75 articles, chapters, and technical reports in journals including Psychological Reports and The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. Cooke received his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, where he was a National Defense (Title IV) and Commonwealth Edison Fellow.