Jonathan Roemer

Socialization Syndrome

Over-socialization is the internalization of social norms, values, and expectations to such an extent that the individual's personal autonomy, individuality, and creative thinking diminish.1 Over-socialization in the workplace, or Socialization Syndrome, is an insidious narrowing of horizons. On a long enough time scale, organizational conceptions of the possible drop to zero. The inmates, responding to the conditions of the asylum, struggle to imagine what could be.2 This is Blockbuster scoffing at streaming3 or Kodak's inability to synthesize their own market research.4

Socialization Syndrome is a particular feature of organizational rigidity. Distinct from bureaucracy, it stems from cultural norms.

Amazon avoids this through a conscientious process whereby:5

Skunkworks divisions are indicative of Socialization Syndrome at work. Why is your innovation sequestered? Why does your innovation need sequestering? While a short-term solution to spur creativity, examine why this is not incorporated into your normal course of business. Hackathons are similar, demonstrating a failure to make innovation routine.

Examine the incentivization structures your organization creates.

Socialization Syndrome represents a critical challenge to organizational adaptability and innovation. It culminates in an insidious narrowing of horizons and a diminishing capacity to envision novel possibilities over time. Delve into the complexities of your cultural fabric and foster a climate that rewards innovation, embraces risk, and empowers individuals to challenge conventional thinking. Your sustained competitive advantage depends on it.

  1. Wrong, D. (1961). The Oversocialized Conception of Man in Modern Sociology.

  2. Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates.

  3. Randolph, M. (2019). That Will Never Work.

  4. Barabba, V. (2011). The Decision Loom.

  5. Bezos, J. (2016). 2016 Letter to Shareholders.

#leadership #organizational rigidity #over-socialization #socialization syndrome