It was clear from the beginning of our face-to-face sessions that this was going to be a very unorthodox class. There was very little lecturing, no rote memorization, and no tests. Instead, there was a lot of movement, a lot of talking, and a lot of guest speakers.
The first guest speaker was Dr. Jack Muskat, Leadership Professor at Schulich School of Business. I did not know at the time, but Jack’s speech would end up being the most enlightening part of my week, and the most helpful for a very important decision I would soon have to make.
Jack’s speech was all about leadership: how does one define leadership; what makes a good leader; and why do some leaders fail. But, for me personally, the most impressive part of his speech was the knowledge and expertise that he shared about culture. According to Jack, culture “encompasses the values, beliefs, customs, rules, and family patterns”, and he encouraged us to visit any company webpage to see how the language of culture structures the reality of the workplace environment.
Soon after our one-week course finished, I had a series of interviews for various government departments and one private sector firm as part of my coop search process for fall 2014. Without expecting it, I was engulfed by a different type of culture each time I prepared for an interview by looking at the department or company webpage, and each time I actually sat down for the interview.
Some cultures were welcoming and enticing, and others were off-putting. And, there was even one culture that “spoke to me”. One company emphasized in its job descriptions and in the interview that it was not interested in burning out its employees. It was a fast-paced work environment that demanded dedicated and hardworking individuals, but it rewarded its employees with extensive vacation time to recuperate after excessive work. This little piece of information screamed “great culture”, and was a really big learning moment for me personally.
As I prepared myself to create this reflective artifact, I went through my class notes. And I found something truly amazing. As Jack was speaking, I had actually written down a question that I thought summarized exactly what he was trying to say: What is the right culture for an organization to be successful?
As I went through the coop process, however, I realized that an equally important question for me is: What is the right culture for you to be successful?
I strongly believe that this question can guide you not only through your personal path (such as a job search, choosing which university to attend, etc.), but also through the greater social innovation space as you try to figure out what leadership, culture, and success mean to you.