You already have the ingredients to make your company far more powerful. You might not realize it, but there is something in the makeup of your company that a strong, dynamic culture can be built around. Something that can focus your whole organization on its prime purpose.

The key is identifying that thing.

IBM and Watson

IBM did this after their Watson computer won on the Jeopardy game show. Watson was not just a novelty or a public relations win for the computing giant. It showed that machines could work in ways they never had before, understanding natural language, dealing with non-numerical information, learning from mistakes, combining all these elements to achieve incredible results.

Rather than try to fit Watson and the work around it into their existing structures, IBM turned to a more outward-focused approach to research and development. They created new administrative and budgeting procedures, gave outside developers access to this cutting edge technology, and restructured their whole approach where it touched Watson projects. This created a new culture of innovation and flexibility around Watson that both generates and channels excitement for the technology.

You might not realize it, but there is something in the makeup of your company that a strong, dynamic culture can be built around.

Allied Wallet and Millennials

For card payment company Allied Wallet the focus is different, but it once again lies within what the company already has. The company has a young staff, almost all of whom are under 35, and a relatively young leader. The company’s culture is built around its people.

Allied Wallet has tapped into the energy and excitement inherent in that young workforce. The attitude is one of informality rather than rigid hierarchical behavior. Good ideas and innovations are strongly rewarded. This excites the sort of staff they have.

It is a setting that harnesses a young energy and uses it to great success.

Embracing your Essentials

The examples of IBM and Allied Wallet might seem very different. One is building around a product, the other around its staff. One is a long-established giant, the other far smaller and newer.

But there is a similarity here, a lesson to be learned. Both companies have looked at what they already have and found the energy to drive their business as well as the consistency for a dynamic and authentic workplace culture.

As Seth Godin has pointed out, it makes no sense to disdain the products that you make. The same is true for the people you work with, the processes you have in place, the day-to-day dynamics of your organization. If you look at what is at the core of your work, what part of it excites people, you will find something there worth building your culture around.

If you look at what is at the core of your work, what part of it excites people, you will find something there worth building your culture around.

Evolution, Not Overthrow

Many attempts to transform an organization’s culture start with throwing out the old. Consultants, trainers and textbooks are brought in to show you what your culture should look like. Articles like this one are poured over in detail looking for gems of wisdom to guide you.

But those gems of wisdom are already there in your company. Look for:

  • The type of people who get most excited about your work. What do they want, what motivates them, and how can you spread that further?
  • A product or service that is creating a great buzz. Can you realign around that product to spread the enthusiasm and new structures through the organization?
  • A feature of the culture that people already love. Is there a way that you can expand upon that?

By reshaping your culture in this way you ensure that it feels consistent and authentic. You tap into existing desires. You minimize the jarring impact of radical change.

So look inside your business and ask – what are we already about?

 

Originally appeared on Switch and Shift – October 20th, 2014