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Insight #10: Build Culture, Intentionally

This is the twenty-sixth in a series of posts that will examine ten insights Community Wealth Partners has uncovered through our research of and experience with initiatives that have created transformational social change.

Imagine yourself in your office, tackling one of the many things that are on your plate. You need a break so you head downstairs to the bowling alley. You and a colleague play a game while you talk about this and that. Feeling refreshed, you head back to your workstation, but first you take a few minutes to write your idea about solving a social problem on a long white board.

This is the Google culture, and it is one that is highly regarded by Google employees and envied by others in and outside the industry. Why would an Internet search company invest so much into its culture? For Google, it is all about one thing: innovation.  Google’s informal and unconventional corporate culture aligns with its goal of “organizing the world data and making it universally accessible and useful.”  Everything in their space – from the furniture to the chef-cooked employee meals – screams “we do things differently.” For Google, this investment has paid off. Google employees have delivered innovative ideas for the company including Gmail, AdSense and Google News. What can we learn from Google about building culture, intentionally, in order to advance our strategic goals and achieve transformational change?

The lesson is simple: culture is important. Unfortunately, however, it is often assumed that culture—an organization’s set of values, norms and behaviors—will be a natural by-product of the process of setting a vision, goals and structures that significantly move the needle on a social issue. We’ve learned from change agents who are achieving transformational change that intentionally building culture should be a primary focus that closely aligns with and supports its goals.  In other words, everything in their space must reflect the ethos that drives the organization.

Here at Community Wealth Partners, our aim is to support leaders to solve social problems at the magnitude that they exist.  To support that vision and as a way to put this learning into practice, our team has embraced a set of norms and behaviors that cultivate shared learning, creative problem solving and strategic thinking. For example, our firm has Share and Learn Days where team members gather to discuss and highlight insights from our client work. Everyone contributes their best thinking and creative ideas. That intentional culture of sharing, learning, testing, listening and creative thinking undergirds our larger organizational goal.

How have you approached intentionally building culture? We will further explore this idea in subsequent posts, including a discussion on how to approach shifting culture in society to achieve a transformational goal.

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Amy Celep

About Amy Celep

As CEO of Community Wealth Partners, Amy Celep guides the organization’s strategic direction and oversees its more than 20 employees in their efforts to support partners in solving problems at the magnitude they exist. Amy was named to this role in April 2010, and since then has led the organization in developing and implementing a new strategy for greater impact, while achieving 50 percent revenue growth and securing a marquee list of partners. See Amy's full bio

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