Work Culture

Over the last few months I have written a number of posts using the term “work culture.â€� I was using the term without even realizing that it doesn’t really yet exist in modern lexicon.

Wikipedia has entries for organizational culture and corporate culture, the later dealing with traditional enterprises and their hierarchical structures. However, I feel that work culture is something very unique from either of the above.

Work culture is the environment that empowers an individual(s) to produce and receive.

Work culture is not – any longer – corporate. Consider the creative class and the folks operating in the edgeeconomy: do they exist in a corporate culture? I say no. For example, over the last several years Heights Media Group has existed as completely agile entity. We’ve worked at client offices in downtown Manhattan and from coffee shops in rural New Hampshire. We’ve been the lead on some major projects, and teamed up with partner companies on others. In some cases we have created for ourselves and in other cases we have produced for others. However, there has been one constant – a profound disassociation with the need for hierarchy or anything corporate.

Heights Media Group has been managed in a truly participatory manner; freelancers co-exist with employees and with owners. The people who contribute to this blog may well be responsible for some of our best strategy work. We’ve hired specialists to do their thing and we almost always default to their expert opinion. The projects where we have been most deeply engulfed are the ones where we are actually owners with equity. Overall our work culture has focused on creation rather than the redistribution or protection of information. We leveraged technology to maximize our participatory culture. I see this as a very different mindset from the corporate culture that would define a law firm or investment bank. While many workers may still be entrenched in corporate culture, the tides are shifting for all.

Work culture is also differentiated organizational culture, which is more of blanket phrase for any group of persons with objectives. In work culture, an ‘exchange’ is always involved (often compensation for goods and services). Whereas organizational culture could apply universally to most any entity, a work-focused culture is different due to the receipt of payment for production and or creation. While traditionally, this exchange has most often been monetary compensation, today it could also be equity, personal reputation, social benefit (peer production) or something else that has yet to be invented but has value to someone or some group of persons.

I’m reminded of a great passage in Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps it’s a bit dated due to the emphasis on ‘money,’ but it nevertheless remains a powerful passage:

Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor–your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle


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