"Negotiating with Our Future Cultures"


David Hawk and Satu Teerikangas


Our paper begins and ends with an enduring constant of social systems -- "culture." Culture has provided a baseline context for individuals to belong to larger social systems, as well as bulwark against change in human affairs. Culture has become a basis for defining what becomes institutionalized, and how it to do things that will be perceived as an institution. In the modern world a form of culture known as corporate has become quite important to what we do and who we are. It has become a center-piece for the economic continuity of many social groups and most socio-economic activity. Yet, somehow corporate culture has come to define culture in ways that benefit only some parts of a society at the expense of other parts. In this way culture serves to formalize (to fix) human relations in ways that are against the potentials of the informal (the dynamic). Culture is normally defined so as to give historical meaning of human affairs, but such forms of meaning can be as constraining as they are comforting.

We propose a expanded and reorganized redefinition of culture so as to use the potential in its continuous mirror image to renegotiate human futures. We propose to systemically unfix its sense of permanence, to throw culture into the future as a feed-forward instrument that links future aspirations to present activity. The traditional image of culture as only a feedback mechanism, to remind people of whether they are inside or outside of a cultural group, is stood on its head as a means to bring normative values out from the future. This may all seem conceptually difficult. It is in fact a rather straightforward means to use ideas of the future to direct activities of the present. Herein we pursue this idea via the social systems situation of mergers and acquisitions between two corporate cultures. Examining this context allows us to understand the importance of culture, organizational culture, corporate culture, and how corporate culture can be managed to the benefit of its host as well as context.

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David Hawk and Satu Teerikangas, "Negotiating with Our Future Cultures", Proceedings of the 45th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the System Sciences, Jennifer Wilby and Janet K. Allen, editors, at Asilomar, California, July 8-13, 2001.

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