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Business organisations and their environments: Culture

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We know that culture guides the way people behave in society as a whole. But culture also plays a key role in organisations, which have their own unique set of values, beliefs and ways of doing business. This free course, Business organisations and their environments: Culture, explores the concepts of national and organisational culture and the factors that influence both.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • identify some fundamental dimensions of national and organisational culture
  • differentiate between various national and organisational cultures
  • discuss ways in which culture influences organisational environments
  • critically apply theories on culture to organisations and the environments in which they operate
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which organisational culture affects how organisations deal with diversity and complexity.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 15 hours
  • Updated Thursday 11th February 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Business Studies
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Business organisations and their environments: Culture


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In very broad terms, ‘culture’ refers to the prevailing norms and values which guide the way people behave in a society or in an organisation. Culture at the level of an organisation is referred to as organisational culture, and culture at the level of a society is referred to as national culture.

Organisational culture refers to an organisation's own values, beliefs and learned ways of doing business. This is reflected in its structure and in the people who work in the organisation. The culture of an organisation is derived from its aims and purpose, its past, its present and its current ways of managing its people and resources. Because every organisation is unique in terms of these features, each will have a culture that is unique. Analysis of culture is important within an organisation because, as we will see in this course, it impacts on everything the organisation does. But very often these values and beliefs are not explicit and people take them for granted. This ‘taken-for-grantedness’ is what frequently makes culture problematic in organisations. People assume that everyone views things in the same way. But as you will see as you work through this course, nothing could be further from the truth.

National culture, in turn, is the culture that exists outside the organisation at the level of a society or country. National culture is made up of the societal values and belief system of a country and is influenced by several factors, including its languages, religions, gender roles, age profiles of its population, socio-economic groups and government policy.

The aim of this course is to look at aspects of both national culture and organisational culture. As you will see, these are closely related to each other.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from an Open University course B201 Business organisations and their environments [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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