Winning in the Age of Bohonomics

Cultural Mediocrity and Bohemians as Change Makers of Organizational Cultures

Bohemian persons are often feeling otherness, and often they feels they are in some way misunderstood. A bohemian, who do not fit the typical “average” category, has many challenges and problems, because this “average” category is considered in many organizations the only right category. Many talented people have to deal with the fringes of society in order to realize their dreams and visions.

In many cases bohemians are neglected because of “work place democracy”. However, we know that the limitations of democracy lie in the moral, and even spiritual, quality of the electorate. A democracy is as good as its people and tends to promote a moral and cultural mediocrity. One paradox of today is that modern democratic society seems to be characterized by a rising tide of trivia and empty entertainment. Ordinary citizens may want more, but also bohemians want more, much more.

For many organizations it is typical that they allow the bold thinking only in specific circumstances. Courage to break with can be taken in general in the context of “development Days”, “creativity workshops” or “spring assembly events”. On other days of a year bohemian experts will be “hippies”, “nerds” and “persons with propeller hats”. They are the ones all other in the “organizational chart” can laugh at good will. For a bohemian it is typical that they are not taken particularly seriously or other experts underestimate their performances.

When one talks about bohemians, there are often presented different characterizations of a bohemian person. Typical classifications for bohemians are:

• The diversity of competences,
• spontaneity,
• robustness
• living in the moment,
• artistry,
• ambivalence, and ambivertism,
• the ability to be inspired,
• vagary,
• angularity,
• roughness, and
• a strong character.

These characterizations are certainly in the right direction to characterize the bohemian tribe. In the reality, however, bohemians can be found from very different social and ethnic origins. Bohemians may be both men and women, as well as a bohemian can also be found in different age groups. Actually, there is no single psychological standard definition for the bohemian people. Bohemians are special kinds of people who also want emphasize the specificity of their own.

Bohemian man can be extroverted, but there are also inward-looking bohemians, not so expressive. Bohemian people work very often in creative professions and have broad innovative potential of the toughest technical and social applications. Art, science, sports, and economic life are attractive fields of life for bohemians. Bohemians can provide creative contributions to these important areas of life.

A bohemian is a person who is often not suitable for the average person’s profile. Bohemians often want to consciously stand out from the masses and have different social contexts and “tribes”. People see and perceive bohemians usually strange – even the difficult people to handle. The authenticity and the inner voice, listening oneself are important things for bohemians. Bohemian people are generally interested in unconventional ideas and novel practices. They are interested in new ideas, inventions and proposals.

Generally, they are often called to invent and re-invent different policy areas and to be pioneers of new ideas and ideologies.
In many organizations, bohemian life style is a challenge and many organizations have difficulties to rigid adapt organizational systems and relationships to bohemian styles. Many corporate organizations and public sector organizations want – consciously or unconsciously – to recruit – not so bohemian employees, who work quietly to make standards things and projects routinely and in a mechanical way like in old industrial organizations. In the future, these types of people and organizations trying to be mechanic robots and robot societies will be easily substituted with robots and new smart technologies.

Many organizations are also such that bohemians cannot easily present their new ideas and take active initiatives on new challenges. Rigid hierarchies and inflexible organizational silos prevent organizations from obtaining access to the best creative human capital. New, bohemian types of organizations are first facing major challenges to do the right thing. If bohemian personalities are allowed to take creative and new roles and flexible job descriptions, they also tend to engage actively in these roles and job descriptions.

Bohemian persons are able to change schemata in the organizations. Schemata, whether plural of schema, are knowledge structures a person forms from past experiences. Bohemian can create new forms of schemata and reformulate old schemata.

Incentive structures of bohemian organizations are different compared with industrial organizations of Taylorism. “Synthesized workflows” approach of Taylorism is not the right approach to create unique products and services. So called “scientific management” must be reformulated, if we want to keep members of creative class inside the box of scientific management. This challenge is not a small one. We must re-define organizational paradigms, control systems, organizational structures, power structures, symbols, organizational rituals and routines. Even stories and myths of organizations must be re-invented.

For many business organizations would do well to think about it they are able to offer reasonable opportunities for bohemian talents to make a special contribution in their organization. Without re-inventing their organizational systems, leadership patterns and management styles this will be a mission impossible. Why organizational cultures develop in organizations is due to external adaptation and internal integration. Bohemian people play a special role both in external adaptation process and internal integration process. That is why bohemians´ role cannot be neglected in the post-modern organizations. External adaptation reflects an evolutionary approach to organizational culture. Internal integration is an important function since social structures are required for organizations to exist. Thus bohemians are key players from the evolutionary and functional organizational perspectives. Bohemians can create strong cultures inside organizations. The “average approach” leads to weak culture. Weak culture means that there is little alignment with organizational values and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy. Strong culture is said to exist where staff respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values.

If the organization’s culture is too “average oriented” and favors “middle of the road” recruitments, bohemians of the creative class do not offer their unique talents to such organizational structures and cultures. In this old-fashioned organizational culture scenario, they will have to seek new dynamic organizations or start-up their own businesses. General and very typical assumption is that the workers should be as robots. This approch will not help to attract bohemian talents, because they do not want to be like robots. Permissiveness, tolerance and deeper cultural understanding of diversity are important issues for organizations that really want to get top experts and keep them in their organizations.


1 Beyond mediocrity
2 Organizational culture
3 Schemata
Mandler, J. M. (1984) Stories, Scripts, and Scenes: Aspects of Schema Theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Widmayer, Sharon Alayne (2012) Schema Theory: An Introduction. George Mason University.
4 Organization research
Handy, Charles B. (1976) Understanding Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Barney, J. B. (1986) Organizational culture: Can it be a source of sustained competitive advantage?. Academy of Management Review, 11(3), pp. 656-665.
Shein, Edgar (1992) Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic View. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Zhang, Xibao (2009) Values, Expectations, Ad Hoc Rules, and Culture Emergence in International Cross Cultural Management Contexts. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
5 Frederick Winslow Taylor
6 Scientific management


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