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
- Decision velocity is as valuable as decision quality
- 70% of the information you wish you had is good enough
- Disagree and commit means a genuine difference of opinion followed by candid discussion and subsequent quick, sincere commitment to a course of action
- Amazon accepts that ideas are gambles and failures are learning opportunities.
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.
- Is innovation a cultural value?
- Do you embrace and incorporate the learning opportunity of failure?
- Have you defined your goals effectively, such that success and failure are understood?
- As discussed in 10x Orgs, does your team have an understanding of organizational risk tolerance as it relates to what “big bets” may or may not be feasible to take on?
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.
Wrong, D. (1961). The Oversocialized Conception of Man in Modern Sociology.↩
Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates.↩
Randolph, M. (2019). That Will Never Work.↩
Barabba, V. (2011). The Decision Loom.↩
Bezos, J. (2016). 2016 Letter to Shareholders.↩