Memes in business

So if the 'big stuff' such as legal systems, national cultures and religions are inherited, and therefore transmitted by memes', it should come as no surprise to you that memes also transmit the reasons that organisations exist and absolutely everything about the way that they work.

In this category we look at the types of memes that describe the purpose and value of organisations, and those that describe they way they work.  I believe that a sign of a healthy business is a simple and consistent set of memes, and it is no surprise that the most successful businesses are often those that adhere to the purpose and direction of the founders.

When the memes get out of balance the symptoms include any or all of stagnation, defeatism, inability to innovate, fads, excessive change, poor product quality, crushing bureaucracy and internal politics. The good news is that these can all be cured and there are some simple techniques to help you rebalance the situation.

The way you do business is not a set of commandments carved on stone tablets, but rather just a set of ideas that can be adapted or discarded as you see fit. And if the vision, values and methods of organisations are nothing more than memes, an understanding of those memes and how to alter them becomes central to the disciplines of change management and leadership.

We can also finally understand the interactions of corporate and national culture.  Deep-rooted structures that can sometimes prevent us from adapting to the ways of foreign corporations. One of the major messages from anthropologists to businessmen should be that if a person places a group’s needs over their own needs (and most of the population of the world do) then they will not subscribe to many of the management techniques taught in Western business schools. 


  • A memetic theory of organisations

    Most of us work for some kind of organisation, and are expected to understand and support what that organisation is trying to do, and to fit into the ways that it does it.   Those aims and methods are transmitted memetlically, and I explain how we can categorise those memes.  

    More practically, we can diagnose what happens when organisations don't work, and I posit that the best run organisations are the ones with the clearest and most consistent set of memes.

  • Organisational immune systems

    We saw in the article on types of political structure that political systems could become overwhelmed by a memeplex, resulting in a single party state.  These systems select their political cadre from true believers, thus perpetuating the meme and therefore the state.  However, we also saw how the lack of counterbalance in these single-meme states leads them into internal or external conflict, and that this often ended badly.  

    We saw in Diagnosing sick organisations how organisations suffer from the same kinds of memetic diseases, and looked at the idea of a ‘meme balance’ and posited that the most successful businesses are not those which are best managed, but those which maintain the most consistent set of memes.

    So to maintain a healthy set of memes, we need a mechanism that will protect our businesses from unhealthy ideas, and this mechanism is the corporate immune system.

  • Managing across cultural boundaries

    National culture spectacularly fails the test of universality - there are dozens of distinct cultures, ways of working and even ways of thinking in Europe alone.  These distinctions are created by education and are carried by memes.

    This section builds on the 'Culture' section of 'Social Structures' and looks at how tactical memes need to be amended to work in, manage, or communicate with, multinational teams