Humans are Political Animals

April 5, 2019

Organizational culture is a political-semiotic process that addresses:

- Collective mental map that establishes the lens, through which internal and external environment variables are perceived, analyzed and incorporated, orientating individual’s attitudes and group behaviors, modelling the way of being of the company and influencing its strategic choices and operations.

· The way the group operates and interacts to the accomplishment of a defined intention in the recognized time and space for the individuals, defining norms and values set - not necessarily explicit - for the conflict resolution, solution of problems, decision-making process, recognition, penalty and execution.

· Nature of the bond that the individuals establish between themselves and with the enterprise context where they are inserted, combining affective and rational aspects.

Organizational cultures are, therefore, social constructions carried through by groups directed by leaderships capable to articulate common interests, create meanings and implement mutual obligations between all the members, in a permanent interactive process of plea, transformation and domination.

Throughout the time, leaders and subordinates shape languages, traditions, norms, values, meanings, symbols, rituals, myths, processes, mechanisms of control and systems of recognition. Leaders do everything by means of a narrative that is presented as natural, neutral, credible, fair and legitimate to be capable to organize the social and psychological processes in this human grouping.

It is formed, then, the distinctive expression of a company in relation to the others. All organizational culture is inexorably the original expression of its trajectory, in dynamics continuity defined by the internal and external social interactions.

The organizational culture is established in three layers that combine concrete and visible elements, symbolic and subjective and, even though, conscientious and unconscious.

· Level 1: Devices you observed - It is the easiest level to observe in a company. Everything that is seen, heard and felt in the interactions with members of this company represent this more superficial layer formed by visible organizational structures and behaviors you observed. The decoration, the climate, the way the people behave ones with the others, the language, the symbols, the rituals.

· Level 2: Shared norms and values – It is the intermediate layer that guides the social interactions in a specific way, and distinguishes the members from this culture of other companies, assuring to them a distinctive identity. The shared values are related to mental desires and aspirations, goals and models, and guide the concepts “good” and “bad”. The norms guide the concept “wrong” and “right” and can even be developed in a formal way, reflected in policies, procedures or manuals, or in informal way, regulating the social order in a semiotic way.

· Level 3 - Certainties and fundamental purposes - This level is formed by a set of collective perceptions that define the real essence of the organization. This layer is formed by essential values, beliefs and thoughts that result in a process of collective learning, constructed throughout the group life. Such basic certainties result of the historical collective success, as the group learns what better functions in its processes and environments, thus crystallizing a specific way to act and to interact. However, these same certainties, with the time, become automatic and unconscious, forging tacit rules or mental models that guide the way to do, to think and to feel, even in face of a volatile context.

Such cultural, religious, philosophical, scientific, artistic standards, before the extreme plasticity of the human behavior, transform themselves into programs capable to organize the social and psychological processes in a human group. It is through these strong ideological pillars and social references that a man transforms himself, for good or for bad, in a political animal.


Daniel Motta is the Founder and CEO of BMI Blue Management Institute, a leading niche consulting firm. He is a global thought leader focused on culture, strategy and leadership. He has a PhD in Economics, MSc in Financial Economics and BA in Economics. He is also an OPMer from Harvard Business School. He is the Managing Director of USA-based VC company White Fox Capital and the Senior Tupinambá Maverick of bossa&etc. He was a co-founder of Brazilian Society of Finance. He currently serves NGO UNIBES as Strategic Planning Principal. He is the author of the best selling books Essential Leadership and book Anthesis. He also has three articles published by Harvard Business Review. He is a Board Member of MASP.