Culture Club

Jumpstarting a new wave of organizational culture research

Dylan Jorgensen, from Zappos, and Lauren Rivera, assoc. prof. at Northwestern Kellogg, at the Berkeley Haas Culture Conference.
Dylan Jorgensen, from Zappos, and Lauren Rivera, assoc. prof. at Northwestern Kellogg, at the Berkeley Haas Culture Conference.

Executives from Facebook, Netflix, Zappos, Pixar Animation Studios, Deloitte, and other “culture-aware” companies mingled with top academics from around the world at the inaugural Berkeley Haas Culture Conference in January. They kicked off the new Berkeley Haas Culture Initiative—the brainchild of Prof. Jennifer Chatman, PhD 88, and Assoc. Prof. Sameer Srivastava of the Haas Management of Organizations Group.

Prof. Jennifer Chatman
Prof. Jennifer Chatman

“We’re interested in developing a shared research agenda to address some of the culture challenges we haven’t yet been able to solve,” says Chatman.

Company presenters spoke candidly about the culture challenges they’re confronting, whether through mass hiring, mergers, new strategies, or changes in leadership.

Jennifer Cook, MBA 98, the CEO of cancer detection startup Grail, spoke about her experiences at six companies over 15 years. “There were any number of organizational themes and challenges that I had faced, and our teams had faced, for which culture was the relevant solution,” she said.

Assoc. Prof. Sameer Srivastava
Assoc. Prof. Sameer Srivastava

The new initiative will include industry partnerships and interdisciplinary research collaborations, communication exchanges on best practices, and events. The idea was to start by taking stock of a field that has become increasingly fragmented as it has expanded, Srivastava says. “Economists study culture, psychologists study culture, and sociologists study culture— all in different ways,” he says. “At the same time, companies are developing innovative practices related to culture, and it’s often hard to disentangle what works and what doesn’t. We wanted to bring everyone together to start a conversation.”

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