The topic of organizational culture has attracted the attention of numerous researchers from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. A review of the literature shows that the quantitative assessment of organizational culture has been dominated by studies adopting the competing values framework developed by Quinn and his colleagues. The use of this model embraces the notion that the 4 cultural types depicted by the framework can be used not only to represent the culture of an organization but also to serve as a basis upon which one organization can be differentiated from others. Various attempts have been reported to support the validity of the framework for describing the culture of an organization; however, the claim that one organization can be differentiated from another on the basis of the 4 cultural types is yet to be empirically supported. The study reported here set out to show that the competing values model can be used to differentiate organizations from one another. Based on a survey administered to all academic staff in 7 out of the 8 government‐funded higher education institutions in Hong Kong, the study successfully confirmed the validity of the competing values model as a tool in differentiating organizations. Copyright © 2004 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.