Asking what is culture? is a bit like asking what is air? It’s something vital but invisible. Without it your organisation will die. It’s about more than just people – it’s how we interact, behave and grow as a community.
Since the business was founded, the team at Born + Raised have worked hard on maintaining our culture. We think it’s quite special, and definitely conducive to producing great work together (admittedly, we might be biased).
So, after years of affectionately referring to our culture as simply ‘no dickheads’, we decided to get a little more formal in articulating the glue that holds us together.
Pinning it down
We gave the project the client treatment, as agencies can sometimes be guilty of ‘cobbler’s children syndrome’ (where internal projects are a rushed, slap-dash version of anything we’d deliver with pride to a client).
That meant doing some research and agreeing the brief before we got to work. We mined culture code decks online from organisations around the world to find what we thought worked.
The worst were a list of generic and subjective adjectives. The best all had one thing in common – they translated their culture into tangible behaviours, customs and attitudes that were unambiguous and easily understood.
The next step was getting the whole team together to explore our culture before we put pen to paper. After all, the exercise would be doomed to failure if the team didn’t recognise themselves and their experiences in the output.
So, we gathered around and with the help of approximately 8,000 post it notes (sorry trees) we asked everybody the following questions:
- What behaviours do we value in each other and in ourselves?
- Which behaviours in another would convince us that they were the right fit for Born + Raised?
- What are we praised for?
- What isn’t tolerated here?
- What stories do you tell to illustrate what it’s like to work here?
- What are our mantras?
From there, we collated and grouped all the responses to see how our culture lives and breathes in action. A clear picture emerged – of a team who step up, challenge the accepted, laugh often and treat each other with genuine affection and kindness. In some ways we’d known this all along, but the act of articulating it was surprisingly emotional.
Putting a stake in the ground
Articulating an organisational culture can be a risky thing to do. After all (as our Creative Director Bew likes to remind us), the organisational culture at Enron included the words excellence, integrity and respect, and we all know how that turned out.