Culture Versus/And Strategy.


I read a quote this morning attributed to the denizens of Silicon Valley “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” As someone who spent many of his early years studying anthropology and also who makes a living today studying and perfecting strategy and its talons, I take issue.

Nothing easts strategy for breakfast. And I’m a big culture guy. Whenever employees talk about company culture 9 out of 10 times they are inarticulate. “We’re an entrepreneurial culture.” “We foster a culture of innovative.” Meh. Sure, employees will tell illustrative stories, usually resulting in a cool product or service or founder feat, but that’s not culture. Beer Fridays, a month off to do your own project, charity Monday – not culture.

ruth benedict

Great American anthropologist Ruth Benedict taught us no single trait of personality, art, language or culture exists in isolation. They all work together. In American business, in start-up business, these behavioral elements are typically borrowed, repurposed, stolen (thanks Faris Yakob), or combined into what Silicon Valley companies call culture. Double meh. A huge oversimplification.

A strategy to “accomplish something” is what’s for breakfast. Also lunch and dinner. For me strategy begets culture. Together strategy and culture are powerful allies. The most powerful of allies. Apart, not so much.