Corporate culture is one of those ideas that is easy to talk about, but harder to define. Sort of like logarithms. Or the balk rule. But unless you're a scientist, or an umpire, the topic of corporate culture is more likely to come up in your day-to-day life.

So, what's the best way to define it? A senior guy in the advisory world once told me it was "nonsense — just words people use." But given that most acquisitions never really mesh because of this issue, that dismissal seems a bit short-sighted. A better definition is something like this: A set of beliefs and attitudes that determine how people will feel and act at a company. That's more or less the definition that I remember from a management-skills class.

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