Driving Humanity Back to Business with Design Culture

Driving Humanity Back to Business with Design Culture

By Marti Kurland

What the heck is Design Culture? Most people within business and/or nonprofit communities have never heard the words “design” and “culture” used in tandem. For many it sounds like a mashup, like fusion cuisine. In reality, Design Culture is a cohesive organizational superpower.

Design Culture is a vehicle to rediscover the human side of your business. Every person is special and deserves the freedom to discover who they are and what they bring to the organizations they work so hard for. Your Design Culture journey starts by defining your organization as if it is a person honoring its unique beliefs and persona. Then you can ensure that your environment incorporates the right elements and people such that living your core values is effortless. Within the frame of COVID-19, many decision makers are scrambling to save their organizations while leading teams filled with fear and uncertainty. Implementing Design Culture can help your company both survive and thrive. Many Design Culture initiatives are incredibly low cost and even free – keep reading to learn how you can implement them! 

Getting Started

To begin, you must have a clear mission statement and set of core values that truly reflect the beliefs of those in your organization. If you haven’t looked at yours in a while, or they need some work, now is the time. These two documents become your blueprint, foundation, and roadmap. Your mission statement must be clearly defined by leadership. Core values must be developed by every level in the organization. Invest the time to survey employees about what they see as the value system. Find out what emotional purpose they feel your organization provides. Ask them what a good day at work looks like. Ask them what a bad day at work looks like. If you have done the right job and recruited on cultural fit, you will find consensus. Keep the words simple. The values you create must be easy to remember so your team can recall them with ease.

These words to live by become the backbone of everything that follows. This is the culture part; companies should craft values that are uniquely their own. Culture is similar to cooking and not much like baking. Baking is a science invested in exact measurements and weights with varying degrees of success and failure if the recipe is not followed exactly. Cooking, however, is an art with room for adjustment and radical experimentation. Margaret Heffernan says it best in her book Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes, “Culture has become the secret sauce of organizational life, the thing that makes the difference but for which no one has the recipe.” The art of finding your own recipe is the “Design” part of Design Culture.

The Nouns

Now you can start initiating Design Culture. First, you must identify your nouns. No, you have not been accidentally zapped into grade school English class; simply break out the pieces of your people, places, initiatives, and ideas. Once you examine your nouns you can get creative about how to infuse them with your core values. Well executed Design Culture is like a marinade. Any organization can spread their culture and core values superficially on top. It looks good and it “tastes” good at first, but you just can’t cheat preparation. Your organization, like an entrée, is so much better when you take the time to let the “special sauce” infuse its flavor into every nook and cranny. 

The Value

The return on investment for Design Culture is exponential! Invision, a world leader in digital design touting every Fortune 100 as a client, reports that “design-driven organizations outperform the S&P by 228% over ten years.” It is also well studied that culturally designed organizations produce successful and well-designed products and services crowning themselves industry leaders. People bonded through a common belief system collaborate more effectively and efficiently. Team members are connected by a guiding sense of purpose. This creates community, tenure, and retention. These human dynamics directly translate to higher profits and revenues, thereby capturing additional market share. 

Key to Success

At its core, Design Culture is a launchpad for organizational success by every measure. It is a holistic mindset that is human, and end-user centered. It beckons us to get back to basics. All of us are tasked to consider the applicant experience, the person in the cubicle next to us, the client halfway around the world, and everyone in between. Too many of us have gotten caught up in the complexities of doing business in the modern world. We have forgotten that happy and purposeful teams breathe life into our organizations. We become more human when we practice Design Culture. We increase our capacity for empathy, identity, and connection. When we commit to this mindset, we restore humanity to its rightful place in the corporate world.

We hope you are inspired and curious about Design Culture. Look for additional blog posts on how to strengthen your organization’s health and wellbeing coming soon. Please stay connected with EBI on our social media platforms. And lastly, we hope that you will view your organization, the people in it, and those you can touch outside of it, with a transformed lens.

Would you like to learn more now?

Join us for this upcoming webinar: Got Culture? Timely and Actionable Solutions for Reassessing and Redesigning Your Most Positive Culture Yet

When: Thursday, May 21st – 2pm ET / 11am PT
Duration: 90 Minutes
Presenters: Catherine Mattice-Zundel, Civility Partners, and Marti Kurland, Global Design Culture, EBI

Gain real, tangible, and actionable steps to building a positive workplace culture. We’ll discuss tips for our new way of work during coronavirus, using Civility Partners’ proven method for positive culture change, and EBI’s own Design Culture as a case study. *Eligible for 1.5 credits toward SHRM/HRCI recertification

About the Author

Marti Kurland

Marti Kurland

Marti leads Global Design Culture at EBI. She designs physical workspaces and employee engagement initiatives that integrate an organization's mission statement and internal culture, while illuminating and celebrating internal and external customers' understanding of brand and self.

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