Corporate Culture Really Matters – Stories that Inspire

Corporate Culture Really Matters – Stories that Inspire

Inspiration comes in many forms. In a corporate culture, such inspiration lives in the stories told by successful managers and entrepreneurs. Here, we want to share valuable anecdotes form the basis of a powerful philosophy that is creating a revolution in management.

The Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge is a  “culture on steroids” competitive contest sponsored by the Management Innovation Exchange (partnership with Gary Hamel and McKinsey). Its purpose is to collect out-of-the-box practices that engage employees, empower people, and foster learning.  These great stories show culture change in action – how companies today are building better teams, transcending organizational hierarchy, allowing people to retire in their 20’s, developing talent, and addressing the “work-from-anywhere” age.

This contest is off to an extremely enlightening start with a sampling of engaging stories such as

4 Tactics to Change From Directive Leadership to A Self-Correcting Organization by Joris Luijke

Growing People: The Heart of the Organizational Transformation by Pamela Weiss

Inspiring the Future of Work By Unlocking Innovation Through Chaos, Creativity and Collaboration by Derek Neighbors

What These Culture Stories Have in Common

Building a corporate culture with high engagement, empowerment, and ease of relevant information flow takes effort. A core culture principle we teach is “Knowing Does Not Equal Doing.” Cultures out-perform their competitors by a sustained commitment to purpose-driven habits that foster clarity and alignment – not just toward a common purpose but toward a common identity. It is NOT what you know … or what you say … it is what you are committed to doing. This is how you differentiate from your competitors, read your market, and respond to change.

“…Many people, especially smart people, [who] imagine that insight and understanding are enough to change behavior. But that is rarely the case. As the renowned psychologist Anders Ericsson reported in his studies on mastery (described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers), “deliberate practice” is consistently more significant as an indicator of success than any kind of inherent genius. Deliberate practice requires steady, consistent repetition over time, until new behaviors take root in the body as new habit.

Three Culture Habits Worth Cultivating

Here are a few simple and powerful work practices that make a big difference in driving stronger engagement, innovation, and creativity. Would these appear in your “Beyond Bureaucracy” stories?

1.   Bias for action. Most organizations today need to discipline teams and projects to foster smaller decisions, act quickly, and adjust. Instead of milestones 30 days out, try for one-week milestones. Instead of budgets requiring VP support, whittle a project down to a smaller pilot, and scale once it succeeds.  This is the new way of doing business – move faster, learn, adjust.

2.  Better meetings.  Everyone wastes too much time in bad meetings. Keep meetings short (30-45 minutes) and small (3-5 people). Provide a clear meeting structure (goal, agenda, roles, decisions). Limit large, long-winded conference calls unless they are Webex work sessions. Add a visual element to meetings – it helps people stay attentive, whether on a conference call or face-to-face. Just don’t go overboard with the dense Power Point slides.

3.  Ask more questions, Tell less.  Relationships are the new currency of today’s workforces. Relationships require conversation. “Telling” and declarative statements shut down dialogue.  “Asking” questions invites dialogue.  Yes there is a place for definitive, bossy direction. Like when the building is on fire. But most work is done in teams, and benefits from taking time to explore what people think. Think of it as an investment that reaps compound interest (more inquiry), versus spending that immediately depreciates in value (too much directive). Encourage ideas by saying things like “Great point … how would you approach that?”

Aristotle said it best: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”

Lisa Jackson is a corporate culture expert and co-author of 2 books including the brand new “Culture Builder Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide for Assessing and Changing Corporate Culture.”  She specializes in teaching companies and leaders how to align and transform their corporate culture to maximize profitable growth, productivity, and innovation. 

For free tools and resources on culture change, visit or follow her on Twitter at

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