“We’re all about culture here.”
At this point, any workplace that believes in the power of a good buzzword throws that sentence around and likely has it on their website’s landing page. They talk about the design of their space and the cool amenities they have as indicators of their awesome culture.
Ping pong table… CULTURE!
Bright walls with catchy phrases… CULTURE!
Funky couches around the space… CULTURE!
Ok but wait…. is this really culture? Does this imply that when you walk into a space and see a well-lit room with the coolest living wall you ever did lay eyes on that you’re experiencing the culture everybody is geeking out about?
Kind of. But also kind of not.
Here’s the deal: culture is a multi-sensory experience. So yes, the equally criticized and praised ping pong table is part of a space’s culture. It’s also not the entire culture. If only you could buy culture, right?
It’s true, the time and money that goes into creating a space is not to be taken lightly, but ultimately the design and physical amenities in the space merely represent the inherent culture of the space and the people existing within it (or at least they ought to).
Your culture is not your space, or not just the space. It’s the combination of collaboration, fun- having, community involvement and a great space that encourages everything I just listed. Like I said, culture is a multi-sensory experience.
Let’s go through this kindergarten style, shall we?
What does culture look like?
Read above. Culture looks like good lighting, spaces built for collaboration and some quirky characteristics to give the space personality.
It also looks like people mixing up where they’re sitting, going out to lunch with someone new or your community manager introducing a tour recipient to an existing member. It looks like a room filled with people for an event, members exchanging information, and drones racing around the space after hours. (OK, the last one might not be a culture requirement, but it sure as hell adds to it).
What does culture taste like?
But in all seriousness, beer (or wine, or smoothies, or potlucks) represent something way bigger than what it actually is. It’s a casual way for members to spend time together and get to know each other. It is also the easiest way to get the most members together, since they’re typically already at the space and don’t have to drive anywhere.
What does culture sound like?
Culture sounds like music playing, feet shuffling and people talking. And, hands down, culture sounds like people laughing.
Now, as much as I love being in a group that is laughing their heads off, as a community manager I know I’m doing my job well when people are enjoying themselves and each other even when I’m not there. I know that there are connections being made that are genuine and real and go beyond just a business card exchange. A great culture works without you there.
These things take serious time and effort, which I’m excited to discuss in my next article. Stay tuned!