Why cooperation is so difficult

Bijgewerkt: 30 jul 2019

Inspired by a research assignment from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management we will publish a short blog series on cooperation. Cooperation in large organisations can be extremely difficult, why? This first blog is about culture

One of the stimulating as well as potential blocking factors is the organisational culture. Groups of people use a set of basic assumptions (culture) on how to do, how to behave, what to wear, etc. These basic assumptions are, for most organisations, implicit. These assumptions are important for the group. They make the group, the group.

Groups (i.e: also organisations, or groups within organisations) that exist longer have to deal with a number of crises. If they survive a crisis groups learned how to adapt successfully. While adapting, also the set of (implicit) assumptions will be adapted. As the years move on and the group overcomes a number of crises, the group learns how to survive. This survival mechanism is stored in the set of basic assumptions, the culture.


Large organisations are not the same as one single group. Large organisations consist of multiple groups and consist therefore of multiple (sub)cultures. Each (sub)culture has its own way to perceive reality. Information coming from outside challenging this perception will be ignored or bend towards the 'right' perception. This is not done with negative intentions, but it's just how people think. This means that once you want to start cooperating, i.e. connect the various groups within the organisation you will have to deal with these various perceptions of reality causing misinterpretations, 'resistance' and a lot of discussion.


Based on: Schein, E. H. (2004). Organisational Culture and Leadership. In Organisational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.