Exploring Company Culture At SXSW

Kelsey Ruger5 ResponsesLeadership

If all the people leave the building there is no organization left in it. The organization is the people, their relationships, their motivations, their energies, their values, their aspirations or lack of them. It’s a living breathing thing. A successful organization is one that reciprocates with its environment and one that helps to enrich the environment upon which it depends. When that relationship is broken the organism dies. – Sir Ken Robinson

At SXSW this year I will be doing a core conversation with Katie Laird that addresses a question that I think a lot of people are interested in – company culture.

What exactly is “company culture”, and why is it critical for the leaders of a company to communicate clearly and precisely about culture? In my opinion it’s because the company’s culture is the collective personality of the people in the company and can’t be created by declaration; it is derived partly from proper expectations and exampled behavior with a big helping of clear vision. All those things aside, companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned with their business objectives routinely outperform competitors.

You can only have an awesome culture that encourages commitment and performance if you have the right people, create the conditions for success and require everyone to behave in ways that are consistent with the values of the company (assuming those values are clearly established as well). The tricky part is how do you do this?

Katie and I want to explore several things that we think contribute to great culture:

  • How big a role does pay really play (if at all) in company culture?
  • Why talent is not enough when looking for the right people.
  • The role of design thinking in creating your culture.
  • Creating the environment to help employee initiative.
  • Outside the business: interacting with the community.

We definitely welcome input, questions and things you would like to see!

P.S. If you want to see a great video that discusses some of the topics we want to address check out Ken Robinson’s A New View Of Human Capacity.

Comments & Opinions

Anjuan SimmonsSaturday, January 9th 2010

This sounds like a very exciting topic! I will definitely come by your session. I’m presenting a Core Conversation called “How Social Media Can Destroy Your Business Model” at SXSWi on Sunday, March 14th. Kami Hayuse is my co-presenter. I look forward to seeing you in Austin and also meeting Katie.



Sean BennettFriday, January 15th 2010

Wish I could attend…I believe a piece of this that needs some exploration is…how do you get senior executives to realize how critical design thinking is to their company’s future? There also seems to be a “tipping point” where small companies lose that critical design thinking element once they become a BIG company. The same “culture” which contributed to the success of the company, then becomes stagnant and uncreative. On the interacting with the community piece, I once served in the creative dept. of a national community development intermediary and it was customary for everyone (especially the admin/finance staff) to visit and volunteer some time with one of the local affiliates especially within the first 3 months of their tenure. I believe it was extremely important aspect of the culture that doesn’t exist anymore.
S. Bennett

Sean BennettFriday, January 15th 2010

My apologies…missed a word in my question. It should read, how do you get senior execs to realize how important critical design thinking is to their company’s future?

Adam – Ditto EffectTuesday, January 25th 2011

Such a beautiful quote. I think that way all the time. We participate in organisms greater than ourselves that rely on interconnected cooperation.

Sandra StillmanFriday, November 4th 2011

I hope you come out with a e-book on Company Culture since I wasn’t able to make it.

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