Structure, ritual, and threat

Joseph Campbell studied and wrote about myths, rituals and ceremonies, and the roles played by these early precursors of theater in the human experience. One of his enduring insights about the function of rituals in a society is informative to the role of structure in an organization.

The more a culture feels threatened or at risk, or sees itself as a potential victim of unpredictable forces, the more rituals they will develop, the more complex the rituals will be, and the more vigorously they will defend and enforce their rituals.  It provides an illusion of protection against adverse outcomes.

The more hostile the operating environment, tenuous the economics or insecure the business model an enterprise faces, the more committees, departments, protocols, and other machinery of governance they will develop, the more hierarchical and rigid their internal governance will become, and the more they will try to marginalize those within the organization who wish to consider alternative approaches, in the delusional belief that structure engenders success and rigidity confers durability.

 


Footnote: Here are some additional resources for Joseph Campbell:

 

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