Disrupting Corporate Culture: How Cognitive Science Alters Accepted Beliefs About Culture and Culture Change and Its Impact on Leaders and Change Agents, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Disrupting Corporate Culture

How Cognitive Science Alters Accepted Beliefs About Culture and Culture Change and Its Impact on Leaders and Change Agents, 1st Edition

By David G. White, Jr

Productivity Press

264 pages

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Hardback: 9780367280864
pub: 2020-07-24
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Research in cognitive science over the last 30 years shows much of what we know about culture in the business world is based on myth, wishful thinking, outdated science, or is just plain wrong. This is why culture shaping and change programs in organizations often amount to little more than sloganeering with minimal impact on the lived experience of employees.

This book bridges the gap between the latest research on cognitive science and culture, providing a valuable guide for change leaders, CEOs, and practitioners on how to sustainably work with and change this important resource. It answers many of the major questions that have plagued culture work, such as:

  • Why so many CEOs and management consultants preach culture change when so few culture interventions actually succeed
  • Why CEOs persist in believing "culture starts at the top" when virtually no research in anthropology supports that claim

  • Why most culture shaping approaches have no answer for how to effect culture in global companies
  • Why so many culture-shaping projects focused on corporate values despite the fact modern science shows why changing personal values is exceedingly difficult

What we are learning about culture from the last 30 years of cognitive science gives us the foundation for far more impactful and sustainable interventions than have been possible to date. This book explains why, showing how everyday business practices well beyond HR are key to culture change. Why? Because the brain’s synaptic plasticity can only be altered through new, sustained and widespread organizational habits and routines. This groundbreaking, practical guide will show you finally how to realize the full power of culture as a transformational, empowering and competitive resource.


"With his new book, Disrupting Corporate Culture: How Cognitive Science Alters Accepted Beliefs About Culture and Culture Change and Its Impact on Leaders and Change Agents, David White has joined the short list of those truly challenging organizations to be better than they are. The more we learn about neuroscience and how it helps us understand the complexity of humankind, the more some of us have become motivated to evolve and reach new heights of knowledge, feelings, connectedness, and purpose. David’s core contention is that new science also allows us to bring the same possibilities to organizations through truly understanding this heretofore elusive thing called, "culture" to bring about real, as opposed to, skin-deep, feel good, check-the-box change. And, his warning that true, deep change will be necessary to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the clarion call all organizations should heed. As with all opportunities for organizations to lift their game through sustained, human-focused hard work rather than offsites and bromides, the real challenge is how many will be up for it. For most, the managerial age has allowed them to pay lip service to culture in one form or another while focusing on finance-driven KPI’s to satisfy shareholders. For those organizations that see mastering their culture as the next frontier, however, White’s book is a must-read, and offers the potential to pull ahead in the race to unleash new possibilities. Truly forward-leaning organizations should get on board quickly." - Paul Kinsinger, Thunderbird School of Global Management (emeritus), Central Intelligence Agency

"This book will challenge the perspective of any leader who thinks culture will automatically be what they want it to be. It will remind you culture is carried every day in the practices of your organization and in the minds and actions of your people and leaders. The cognitive science explains why, and this book leverages that science to help you transform your organization in a practical and meaningful way." - Mark Aslett, Chief Executive Officer, Mercury Systems

"As a change leader, this book will challenge you -- by making you rethink what culture is and what role it plays in organizational transformation. Those that think culture is a recruitment tool or about keeping employees happy are in for a rude awakening. Culture is much more; it is embedded in the very way we look at our worlds and what we take for granted. The science of the mind shows us why, and what we can do to leverage its insights for sustainable change. If it can inspire a few of us who lead change for a living to be more courageous and impactful, then it will change the world." - Amanda Gwyther, Vice President, Product Management & R&D (Fortune 1000 Industrial)

"This book will tell you, ‘culture governs change. It is the great enabler, or limiter…’ It explains why transforming an industrial into a digital player, an e-commerce company into an airline, a start-up into a mature business -- are all much more difficult and complex than most of the culture industry wants you to believe. Disrupting Culture dramatically disrupts all of our conventional wisdoms on culture. As a practitioner and change leader wanting to make the world, and the world of work, better than what it is today, this book will guide and inspire me." - Dan Iverson, Vice President, Marketing, EMIA (Global Industrial)


Table of Contents


1. The 5 Myths of Culture

2. What’s Wrong with Corporate Culture?

3. Where Culture Comes From

4. Invisible Hands, Invisible Walls

5. Change the Practice, Change the Culture

Epilogue: The Way Forward

About the Author

David G. White, Jr. is a cognitive anthropologist who has spent his career working as a change agent and organizational development practitioner in large organizations such as Microsoft, as well as entrepreneurial start-ups. He is a co-founder and principal at Ontos Global, a boutique consulting firm that works at the intersection of leadership, organizational change and culture.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Human Resources & Personnel Management
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Management Science
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture