Every organization has its own corporate culture. This can’t be copied or transferred from one organization to another. It’s not even possible to fully describe an organizational culture. It’s important to identify the key factors of the culture. But this is not enough to make the organization a successful one. So how is it done?


Learning from experience

In this text, I quote a couple of thoughts I learned at the Nordic Business Forum a couple of weeks ago. Culture was one of the event’s three main themes this year. The talks conveyed well the importance of culture to an organization's foundation. Every talk presented culture from a very different perspective. Every story was an excellent example of the strong impact of culture on success in the company's industry. Although no idea can be transferred automatically to another environment, something learned once can always be applied in new ways.

Fail to become creative

Ed Catmull, director at Disney and founder of the Pixar animation studio, talked about the foundation of the culture of creativity: "Don't ask how to become more creative, but which management- and culture-related factors prevent creativity." According to Catmull, it's easier to correct errors than prevent them. In his experience, those who have failed together kept together better after failing, and the team dynamics improved through failure. For Catmull it’s  more important to invest in the dynamics of teams and their functionality. Only after this should one think about the outputs and ideas produced by the team, for example. If you're constantly afraid of saying something stupid or of "wrong" opinions, nothing develops or changes. By removing fear, you remove the obstacles to creativity. An equal environment results in shared ownership. Attention is paid to the things that are most essential for success.

Serve to make the organization the best

Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies , considered the most important thing to be the vision of operations being obvious and crystal clear to every employee. According to him, the vision must be present in daily work. To be precise, in what the employee says his work is when shaking hands with a customer. The key message of Nayar's mindset is not, however, the conveyance of the vision to the customer, but how it is achieved. According to him, the employee always comes first and only then the customer. The management of the organization must focus on encouraging, supporting and energizing the employees so that they excel at customer service. He gave an excellent example of success:  Some customer representatives had talked about an offer they received from Nayar's organization, and were overheard by a reception employee. The reception employee had taken part in the discussion and convinced the customer that if they choose their organization to perform the work, the customer could be certain that the employees involved will do everything to guarantee the customer the best possible service. The customer later reported that the deal was made with Nayar's company as a result of the reception employee's statement filled with pride and commitment to the employer.

Identify the success factors of culture

The organizations represented by Catmull and Nayar are very different. Neither one of them would have possibly fared particularly well if they had only directly borrowed each other's cultures or copied each other's ideas. But the examples really inspired me to think about our own corporate culture from a completely new perspective.

What about you? Can you identify the special features of your own organization's culture, and the possible contributors and obstacles to its success?