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Culture: The Missing Concept in Organization Studies

Edgar H. Schein
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 41, No. 2, 40th Anniversary Issue (Jun., 1996), pp. 229-240
DOI: 10.2307/2393715
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393715
Page Count: 12
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Culture: The Missing Concept in Organization Studies
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Abstract

Inattention to social systems in organizations has led researchers to underestimate the importance of culture-shared norms, values, and assumptions-in how organizations function. Concepts for understanding culture in organizations have value only when they derive from observation of real behavior in organizations, when they make sense of organizational data, and when they are definable enough to generate further study. The attempt to explain what happened to "brainwashed" American prisoners of war in the Korean conflict points up the need to take both individual traits and culture into account to understand organizational phenomena. For example, the failure of organizational learning can be understood more readily by examining the typical responses to change by members of several broad occupational cultures in an organization. The implication is that culture needs to be observed, more than measured, if organization studies is to advance.

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