Entrepreneurial Institute

Ethical Entrepreneurship: NYU Wagner and The Entrepreneurial Institute collaborate on research

Organization-Cultural Fit: What is it?


This post is the second in the series on Ethical Entrepreneurship

To view the first post in this series, click here.

The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and NYU Wagner research Ethical Entrepreneurship

Financial Profits and Social Good are compatible business objectives. Ben & Jerry’s is the living embodiment of how an organization can deliver strong return on investments and be socially engaged. The founders remained true to their personal principles, while pursuing broader societal benefits. And never sacrificed the quality of their products in any way – high caliber products were always of paramount importance.


The search for organization-cultural fit touches the cornerstones of all organizations. Unlike the progression in the search for problem-solution fit which leads to the search for product-market fit, creating a constructive organizational culture is ongoing. Leaders have to be mindful that issues impacting organizational-cultural fit occur from the outset and endure for the life of the organization. Asking core questions and gathering information starts early in the customer discovery phase and continues as new team members join the organization.


A positive constructive culture where people, products, customers and partners all have a positive experience is more likely with a mindful approach.


I am excited to be part of an important project kicking off during the 2018/19 school year: a Wagner Capstone Team and the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute are working together to develop a deep understanding of the problem and existing available knowledge. The team will initially identify current best practices, techniques and lessons learned. The Institute's programs will serve as a living laboratory to test what they discover. Feedback will be gathered from our workshops, boot camps and other activities to highlight opportunities for adapting existing curriculum. The goal is to extend the experiential and applied learning environment by fostering a more explicit ethical awareness among entrepreneurs. Experiential ethics for entrepreneurship is a multidisciplinary endeavor. Broad outreach includes discussions with faculty across an array of disciplines both within and external to NYU. The goal is create an inclusive perspective across computer and data science, law, business, philosophy, sociology, art, etc. People from an array of industries will also be included to integrate real world experience, anecdotes and to develop deeper philosophical considerations.



The core philosophical approach:

Ethical Entrepreneurship

  • Building a thriving culture from the beginning is easier than fixing a broken one later
  • Sustaining a constructive culture is an perpetual ongoing process for the life of the organization
  • Requires an awareness and mindful approach embedded through every aspect of the organization
  • It’s all about asking the right questions


The framework guiding the research covers the basic aspects of any organization - what it delivers, the people, how the organization interacts with external organizations, and the governance policies guiding the organization itself.

Experiential ethics for entrepreneurship is a multidisciplinary endeavor.


Awareness starts with asking questions. Then more questions. And keep asking questions….


  • Product/Service

    • When doing customer discovery, are you including a broad and inclusive set of people?
    • Is the data driving decisions representative of the population at large and/or customers?
    • When defining the product, are algorithms and data being defined by people who consider and representative of the population at large and/or customers?
    • Are external facing aspects of the product/service designed with consideration of and representative of the population at large and/or customers?
    • Has accessibility been designed in from the outset?
  • Internal culture

    • Have the founders identified their own core principles for how they want to manage the organization
    • Are hiring practices inclusive and representative of the population being served
    • Are people being fairly compensated for the job they’re doing within the organization, across industry, gender, and racial boundaries
    • Have fair performance assessments been defined, implemented and reviewed periodically?
    • How does the organization react to situations that go badly or when mistakes are made? Is there an attempt to learn why and fix rather than blame?
  • Operations and governance

    • Do the incorporating agreements reflect the founder core principles?
    • How is governance periodically verified?
    • Are standard accounting practices being followed?
    • How often and in what manner does internal communication occur with employees?
    • Are employees periodically surveyed to get their feedback on culture, operations, effectiveness, communications, new ideas, etc.
  • External interactions

    • When interacting with partners, are their business objectives understood sufficiently to craft win-win agreements?
    • Are processes defined to address the governance, verification and enforcement in support of business agreements for security, privacy, and other defined issues?
    • For key partners, is there an identified executive designated as point contact?


Scott Taitel, who heads Wagner’s specialization in Social Impact, Innovation & Investment commented, “Students working on this capstone project have a unique opportunity to impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem by incorporating ethical considerations in the formation and evolution of ventures. Moreover, understanding the drivers of organization–cultural fit will broaden the social purpose of entrepreneurship beyond those entities that expressly identify themselves as social enterprises.”


Ethical EntrepreneurshipThe search and maintenance of Organization-Cultural Fit is an ongoing process. Without an awareness and mindful approach, the organization being formed could end up with an unintended consequence: a negative culture not prepared to thrive for very long. Changing an organization’s culture is more difficult than paying attention to how its formed from the outset. This approach is more likely to lead to a positive constructive culture where people, products, customers and partners all have a positive experience.



Check the next installment in this series with updates from the Capstone research project.