“Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.”
- Albert Einstein
Your experience is rooted and shaped in many environments: those you work in, live in, and were raised in. We are highly adaptive creatures that reshape and adapt ourselves to fit any environment. We transform ourselves to fit and survive in our environments. We behave one way at home and another at work, one way with friends and another with acquaintances.
Our behavior at work is shaped by the work environment, the organization’s culture. The culture shapes how we think we work, how we go about our work, and how we behave at work. Organizational culture is an intentionally created environment designed to support the organization’s strategy and fulfill its vision and mission.
Why do we behave differently in different environments?
Because we are creatures of both our genes and our environment, and our perception of our environment. How our genes and our environment interact determine how we feel, how we behave, and how healthy we are.
Environmental cues cause the brain to send messages through our bloodstream to our cells to coordinate specific behaviors and actions. Those messages are also sent to our genes by neurohormonal chemicals, such as testosterone, estrogen, serotonin, and dopamine.
These chemicals trigger genes to express themselves, like an off and on switch. Also alongside this, our DNA expression, are emotions that drive behavior, completing the epigenetic cycle. Your genes contain your biological blueprint and your environment is the builder.
Our genetic blueprint is modified by our perception of the environment by our brain sending chemical messages to our genes to alter the original blueprint. A child’s genetic code, for example, may “instruct” other cells to build a healthy person, but the child’s environment may minimize those original instructions because the child’s environment has limited access to food, water, and human connections. The environment will not support a child growing robustly so the brain sends chemical messages to alter the original DNA expression. The entire epigenetic process is designed to increase the child’s chances of survival and reproducing the species.
How It Applies to Organizations
At the organizational level, we can apply the same concepts. We can view corporate culture and processes as making up the organization’s DNA. If we wish to express organizational DNA differently, we can apply some of the lessons of epigenetics. These lessons help us view organizational change, leadership, and strategy execution in a new light.
Both organizational and human DNA can be switched off and on by changes in their environments. Sometimes the switch is deliberate and cognitive. Other times, it is reactive or unconscious. Often it is just the natural progression of the inherent development process.
Either way, DNA segments are blueprints that can be altered as a response to the environment. Human DNA can be changed consciously and deliberately. Organizational gene expression can be changed consciously and deliberately.
Watch how the science behind DNA & Epigenetics shapes organizations:
Dr. Tardy Explains DNA & Epigenetics
How Understanding Epigenetics Can Improve your Organizations Performance
Episode II - Epigenetics Explained
Gene and Jean get jobs and learn how they impact their work environment. Tardy explains what epigenetics is.