Using Archetypes to Help Uncover Your Organizational Culture: Part 2

In our last blog, we examined the definition of Jungian Archetypes and how they help us understand the story we are sharing for ourselves and the journey we are on. Just like people, companies have personalities, nuances, journeys and stories crucial to the success of the organization. In this post, we hope to give some practical tips and trends on how to understand your organization’s archetypal profile and leverage that information to shape a future that is relevant to a changing market.

As we discussed previously, our interactions with Dr. Carol Pearson helped us understand that Jungian archetypes could guide us in our lives, define the story of a brand, or profile the nuances of an organizational culture. Her years of validating the Organizational and Team Culture Indicator—and the results—amazed us. After purchasing the tool, now called the IBM Organizational Cultural Insight Survey, we began using it to validate both our qualitative research and our review of existing company data to clearly reveal the cultural essence of an organization.

Prior to IBM’s acquisition of Kenexa, many of our own data-driven in-house organizational psychologists needed to be convinced of the value of archetypes—everything from Magicians to Innocents to Caregivers or Heroes. But our results didn’t lie. The client base of companies using our survey grew to include well-known names of large retail, manufacturing, automotive, healthcare and logistics companies to name a few.

And it’s because we weren’t just feeding data back to the client. We were helping to define who they are, who they wanted to be and, most importantly, how to express their cultural essence in a way that inspired their current employees and candidates alike. Employee Value Propositions (EVP) that have that perfect mix of authenticity and aspiration are highly sought after. After having a clearly defined culture and EVP, career sites followed, as did social media and digital campaigns that attracted high quality talent to the organizations. Social campaigns were no longer just job descriptions—they told stories about life at the organization. They explained why an individual with a Caregiver nature might not feel like a fit in a specific company, but could be crucial to its success. In short, we began having conversations with candidates that really mattered.

I do want to leave you with some trends before closing. I don’t believe—as many do—that culture can be benchmarked. I have seen too many team-based collaboration companies succeed on the same level as those that consciously foster internal competition. Fun companies with in-house dog grooming services and Ping-Pong tables fail as often as they succeed. That said, we have noticed trends during our near-decade of work. The archetypes we see most often in for-profit companies are Hero and Ruler, which makes sense. A Hero has goals, a plan and often a mindset to give up everything to succeed. Ruler companies tend to be further along in their lifecycle. They need controls, processes and structure, which often enable success. But they can too often be seen as roadblocks for Heroes. I also want to mention the Revolutionary archetype here, which is often low for these types of companies. While many organizations often equate being different with being innovative, it rarely works. Innovation needs controls—and smarts (the Sage archetype)—and a visionary mindset that allows for the freedom to fail.

So what is the takeaway? Organizational culture is complicated, but archetypes can bring clarity to the cultural essence of the companies we work for. But remember, culture is no more complicated than our own individual personalities. And most of us do just fine with what is bestowed upon us. Even if we are always a work in progress.