Designing Corporate Culture with 21st Century Behavioral Science

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Angela Cathey, M.A.

ENSO Group

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

The definition of “corporate culture” varies depending on who you ask.  According to Entrepreneur, culture is “a blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals, and myths all companies develop over time.”   Investopedia defines it as “the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”  Finally, Inc defines culture as “the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.”

As behavioral scientists, we look at corporate culture through the lense of our analytic goals – the prediction and influence of behavior towards better working for the organization.  While such goals might apply to Organizational Behavior Management writ large, the term “culture” denotes something unique.

“Culture” denotes the totality of setting factors that occassion the behavior of any given person within the company.  Culture connotes complexity, a major source of which comes from the social interactions among the employees and leaders that comprise the organization. 

Thus, when we apply behavioral principles toward the design of culture, we embrace the complexity inherent in language.  We recognize how one’s verbal relating can lead to behaving in a verbally constructed workplace disconnected from contingencies that matter – how leaders might become overly fused and rigidly adhere to policies that inhibit growth – or how our own histories might unknowingly promote gender bias and unhealthy power dynamics that drive people apart.

Intervening on such complexity requires that we let go of forms, methods, and procedures to embrace the true formlessness of our science.  Our procedures are not what give us our identity – – it is the underlying principles of behavior that do so.  We have come a long way from Skinner’s (1938) work in the animal laboratory, and we must embrace his call to “let him extrapolate who will” (p. 442).

To learn more about how 21st century behavioral science and technology can transform your organization, visit ENSOGroup.us for a free consultation.

Angela Cathey, M.A. is a writer, consultant, entrepreneur, and Owner, Director, and Team/Leadership Development Consultant of Enso Group. Her background is in processes of change and intervention development. She has trained with experts in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), cognitive-behavioral exposure-based treatments, and Relational Frame Theory (RFT). Her interests are in process, innovation, and development of solutions for sustainable large-scale change. She has published in numerous academic journals on process, measurement, and intervention development. Enso-driven analytics systems are used to inform leadership and team building interventions, culture design, and research in the behavioral sciences. Angela can be reached at a.cathey@ensogroup.us. Stay up-to-date with Enso Group at ensogroup.us and LinkedIn.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org

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