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Clean Climbing, Carabiners, and Cultural Cultivation: Developing an Open-Systems Perspective of Culture


  • Spencer H. Harrison

    () (Department of Organization Studies, Carroll School of Management, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts 02467)

  • Kevin G. Corley

    () (Department of Management, W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287)


In this inductive study, we explore the dynamics between Alpinista (a pseudonym), a company that designs and manufactures rock climbing and skiing gear, and the broader cultures within which the company is embedded. Our data pushed us toward the notion of “culture as toolkit,” a perspective that focuses on culture as a set of means or resources used to solve problems. By applying this perspective, we realized that Alpinista's cultural toolkit and the cultural register of the sports (the sum of the toolkits and cultural resources available for members in the environment) influence one another. To explain these dynamics, we induce a grounded model of cultural cultivation ---practices that contribute to the intermingling of organizational and societal cultures---that describes cultural infusions (when the organization imports cultural materials and translates them) and cultural seeding (when the organization exports cultural materials into the environment). We describe which actors (both inside and outside of the organization) can be involved in these processes. The model that emerges from these data provides insight into the cultural dynamics present as organizational culture and broader societal cultures interact, providing insight on issues of organizational authenticity and the paradox of similarity and uniqueness.

Suggested Citation

  • Spencer H. Harrison & Kevin G. Corley, 2011. "Clean Climbing, Carabiners, and Cultural Cultivation: Developing an Open-Systems Perspective of Culture," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(2), pages 391-412, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:22:y:2011:i:2:p:391-412
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0538

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    References listed on IDEAS

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