Introducing ‘The Corporate Meme’

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The Corporate Meme is a project and blog written by Peter O’Reilly to explore and share his professional interests. Writing helps to clarify thinking, though I make no claims that anything here is fully researched and referenced. No doubt I will have plundered ideas from people much cleverer than me, though I may have forgotten where many of them came from.

Some Working Definitions

The Meme? A Meme is defined as the smallest unit of cultural reproduction. It’s an idea, a symbol, a meaning and memes can and do cluster together. A meme doesn’t have to be right or wrong to spread. Memes related to danger, food, and sex spread the most easily. They can go ‘viral, reproducing and spreading quickly. Corporations can be viewed as centers for the creation and reproduction (advertising, seminars, business degrees) of memes (think of a successful corporate logo or ‘free trade’).

The Corporation: The Corporation itself is a social arrangement that is an empty vessel that comes with a series of legal rights and obligations. The vessel can be filled with whatever you like – making and selling sugar drinks or alcohol, religion, electricity generation, pharmaceuticals, socks, stopping environmental destruction. The organising principles within the corporation will be informed by the world-views of its citizens and the conditions they operate in. Once given a purpose, it can be legally defined, regulated and given it’s operating instructions. This all shapes the organisational culture. Of course, organisational theory and practice are relevant to the discussion.

The Caldron of  Worldviews: Memes, ideas, and concepts tend to attract similar or aligned memes to form clusters. When enough related memes cluster together then they can become a dominant organising force shaping almost all aspects of our lives. They can and do shape how we do things e.g. architecture, trade, dispense justice, social structure, religion. Context is critical and conflict between worldviews is not only possible but perhaps inevitable. People will ‘kill’ for it. Think ISIL but also Nazis, the Crusades and Inquisitions, The Cultural Revolution, Colonialism or almost any ‘ism’. The list is almost endless and could include almost anyone that has killed because of ‘(dis) honor’ or ‘(dis)respect’.  It’s helpful to know a bit about worldviews and the dynamics that shape them. So from time to time, The Corporate Meme will use Spiral Dynamics, a meta-theory including worldviews to explore topics.

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