In what way is workplace culture all that different from any other kinds of culture? For most of us, the workplace is the most structured environment we visit regularly. Certainly there is an assumed basis for making value judgments on the use of resources.
In business this is usually thought of as ROI (Return On Investment). We can judge whether purchasing a new delivery truck will result in more efficient deliveries and a greater capacity for sales, for example. Academia has to worry about the bottom-line and often has to accomplish similar business objectives as the private sector, but frequently with less money and a more qualitative mission statement.
For a place like Pepperdine you can’t put a price on culture.
Most people who come in contact with Pepperdine, even for a short visit for a conference or special event, recognize its unique pairing of the physical beauty of the campus with the inner beauty of its community. We’re no stranger to USN&WR or other systems of appraisal that can be used to evaluate our work, but some things like culture defy measurement. But make no mistake, culture is experienced by everyone.
I used to car pool. A former co-worker of mine rode with me early in the morning along the pleasant beaches of Malibu. We have very different musical tastes. Since we arrived early it was common to continue our musical debates across our desks. We’d try to find more and more unusual material that could fit our disparate musical tastes.
One fine Friday morning I happened upon Stevie Wonder’s, Superstition in my collection and it was an instant hit with him. Neither one of us is a particular fan of Funk, but we ended up finding a number of tracks we really enjoyed. A tradition was born, Friday Five Minutes of Funk. Though my friend no longer works here, the tradition has continued, encouraged by other employees. As schedules shift from time to time or someone arrives early, they encounter this tradition and get excited about it. It’s a fun way to get your energy up for the last push of the week. I’ve mentioned it on Facebook and other places and almost universally the idea is received well.
What does this have to do with technology (apart from the fact that technically I’m playing music over the internet on my PC and sharing the multimedia experience with the office)? Technology enables not just critical business functions but culture. It’s a tool, not just for managing accounting data, writing papers and scheduling classrooms, but for communities to relate to themselves. Phones may have been overshadowed by email, but both are specialized tools. There are other tools as well. I hope to post regularly about those other tools and how they can be used, for business processes (yes) and for pedagogy (certainly) but also for culture.
Pepperdine isn’t the only special place so I hope others can learn from what we do here to make their place special. But most of all I hope to share with and learn from other folks at Pepperdine about what makes this place great. It’s people.
I’d like to share a bit of our cultural value with you. Here’s your Friday Five Minutes of Funk.