Birds of a Feather . . . Enforce Social Norms? Interactions Among Culture, Norms, and Strategy

26 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2019 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019

See all articles by Hongyi Li

Hongyi Li

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Eric Van den Steen

Harvard Business School - Strategy Unit

Date Written: October 1, 2019

Abstract

This paper analyzes how shared beliefs and preferences (or values) cause the emergence of social norms; why people may enforce norms that go against their own beliefs and preferences/values; and how this may cause a disconnect to develop between the organization's norms and its underlying beliefs and preferences. We further show, among other things, that such social norms are more likely in attractive organizations, for behaviors that have modest personal consequences, and in organizations where employees depend on others' choices to a moderate degree. We finally discuss how these mechanisms help our understanding of culture change and of the interaction between culture and strategy. We argue that culture is not only an input to strategy, but also a substitute and a potential competitor.

Keywords: Strategy, Culture, Norms

Suggested Citation

Li, Hongyi and van den Steen, Eric, Birds of a Feather . . . Enforce Social Norms? Interactions Among Culture, Norms, and Strategy (October 1, 2019). Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 20-045; UNSW Business School Research Paper Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3463405 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3463405

Hongyi Li

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Eric Van den Steen (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Strategy Unit ( email )

Harvard Business School
Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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