Socialization is how organizations train new members to think and act the way they want them to.
Story: Welcome to The Dragons!
Say you’ve just made the soccer team you’ve been wanting to join for years – The Dragons.
You show up, excited, for the first team meeting. And you’re scared to death when the coach starts with this:
“Welcome Dragons! From today on you can forget everything you ever knew about yourself, everything you ever learned about how to play soccer or how to be a team player.
Because from today on, you will be a Dragon! You will wear the Dragon uniform. You will breathe fire like a Dragon. You will know only what your Dragon coaches tell you, play only by Dragon rules, be judged only by your Dragon teammates. Your entire life will revolve around being a Dragon. Do I make myself Dragonly clear?”
Sound crazy? Actually, this type of thing happens all the time. It’s called socialization, and it’s how organizations get new members to learn their culture and observe their rules and behavioral norms.
Most organizations practice socialization – from businesses to sports teams to military and religious institutions. But socialization isn’t always so Dragonly extreme. Sometimes it’s subtle and you have to look hard to notice it.
Socialization often starts with getting new members to question or forget what they already knew or thought, to make room for what the organization wants them to believe.
That’s followed up by teaching and reinforcing (over time) the values of the organization until the desired behaviors become like second nature.
Socialization isn’t always bad. In fact, if you get great soccer and teamwork training with the Dragons, that could help you for the rest of your life.
But its also good to question socialization – or at least be aware of it – so you can continue to think for yourself and not just do what everyone else is doing.
In other words, keep listening to your own inner dragon too!