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Monday, February 17, 2014

Business - Companies Are Actually Belief Systems in Disguise

No matter where we go, we always bring our beliefs with us. At greatest they allow us to achieve magnificent things and ignite a whole nation to visit the Moon. They can also chain us and prevent us from growing as people.

In a previous post of mine I discussed the concept of company culture. To summarize it is impossible to separate company from its culture. Each company has one whether it wanted it or not. But what are cultures and companies actually made of? Beliefs.

How Beliefs Work?

Belief systems rule the world and always have. We have beliefs about ourselves and others. This applies on personal and even geographical level. We apply certain filters depending on our context. That is the purpose of beliefs after all, to allow us to judge without judging and make fast decisions on a whim. Even though it can save a lot of time it comes with a cost. It is too easy to get stuck on obsolete beliefs and make rash judgments.

As companies, except holding ones, are made of people, this applies particularly on company level. Companies might claim to have values, mission, vision, whatnot, but how the people of the company actually feel and believe matter. The culture of the company is created by its people. But the way they create it is through their beliefs.

Cultural Fit and Boundaries

This is the reason why cultural fit is so important. The belief systems have to be compatible somehow. It is definitely possible to end up with multiple cultures within a company. One way to achieve this is to split the company in departments and let them deal with it. Another classic way to do this is to assign roles to people. There can be programmers, designers, project managers, whatnot.

Each role comes with a set of beliefs attached to it. People might believe for instance that programmers can't design or designers can't program. Or that Photoshop is a good communication tool for these parties. It all depends on our beliefs and the resulting culture.

Beliefs can be used to create artificial boundaries like these. They can also be used to ignite the whole company and give it a purpose. That is why many companies have a fancy mission and vision statement. In practice all that matters is that are the people of the company living those and believing them.


Beliefs can be a great boon when used right. They also limit us. Acknowledging our beliefs is the first step towards changing them. It can help to understand where they stem from. We take some beliefs for granted as wisdom of the ancients. But as times change, so must beliefs and as a result, companies. What do you believe in?