New research and a new understanding about culture change in organisations

New research and a new understanding about culture change in organisations

mosaic theory

In this two part post I am reviewing a new study conducted by researchers from University of Durham in the UK and the Jacobs University Bremen, Germany. The paper paper published in the European Management Journal looks at culture in organisations and the implications for culture change and management in organisations.

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, videos and infographics sent direct to you

Powered by ConvertKit

New understanding about culture


In the last few years our understanding of culture and how we take on cultural attributes has shifted away from the idea that culture is a homogenous solid entity to the understanding that:

  • Cultures are dynamic, ever changing entities
  • Cultures don’t exist nor can be defined on their own. All cultures are in fact made up of a mosaic of different sets of behaviours, thinking and beliefs from a wide range of sources.
  • Individuals navigate the range of cultures they encounter and learn to ‘fit in’. So for example our family will have a culture that most likely is very different from the culture at work or from a social group.
  • From an individual’s perspective cultures are made up of identifiable layers or tiles which are shared or not shared between the various cultures they encounter on a daily basis.

Mosaic Theory

This understanding is called the Mosaic Theory. The clear multicultural example the authors of the paper give is:

“Nadia, an Iranian businesswoman, is negotiating with a prospective alliance partner from Germany. When she enters the room her counterpart, Peter, extends his hand for her to shake as a first gesture of goodwill. Nadia hesitates but takes his hand briefly. While Peter is impressed by her apparent cultural openness, her Iranian colleagues are shocked, seeing as it is neither customary nor appropriate for Iranian women to touch unfamiliar men. But Nadia has studied in the United States, and worked with European firms throughout her career. She has learned to switch among styles of working when necessary.”

However even non-multicultural culture shifting takes place for most of us on a daily basis as we move from one culture to another, from home to work for example. We navigate these multiple cultures by bringing or sliding in a different selection of learnt cultural tiles in order to be able to operate in the various cultures we live with.

Organisational culture

The researchers, from the University of Durham in the UK and the Jacobs University Bremen, Germany wanted to understand how these mosaics and tiles worked, particularly in organisational settings.

What they found was that tiles from different cultural background settings tend to have different weighting or a hierarchy of importance in different settings.

In part two I will have a look at the findings of this study and how they effect your organisation

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page