Learning & Development

Cultivating Culture Through Interaction and Play

The world is incredibly diverse. We’ve got nearly 8 billion people and over 3,800 different cultures. Now, as the world hurdles toward interconnectedness, we’re seeing that incredibly vast diversity creep into our cubicles and conference rooms.

There is power in diversity because it leads to diversity of thought. With that, though, there is more room for disagreement. We now live in a world without shared norms or generally agreed-upon values.

What does this mean for company communication and culture? How can we create a strong company through a shared way of doing things and connectedness while encouraging diversity?

Learn to Play Again

It is a monumental task, one that few companies have even attempted to tackle. The ones that have attempted it have done so meagerly. I hate to break it to you, but the motivational poster you hung in the break room just isn’t going to do it. If we want to form a cohesive company culture, we must move on from plaques and memos. We have to learn to play again.

There are two areas in which the poster doctrine fails. The first is that it is not a two-way conversation. Posters, memos, mission statements—they project a message without hearing anything in return. True change and understanding evolve from shared dialogue and feedback. Second, posters aren’t interactive. Humans are hands-on beings. As children, we learn via play, and the same is true of adults. We, as adults, need to play with our culture to make it ours.

So let’s play.

Building an Interactive Culture

Culture-building must be interactive. One approach to consider for fostering conversation and collaboration is group activities, such as “Culture Workouts” or “Huddles.” They’re not time-consuming, nor are they fatiguing. They’re quick, gamified ways to start conversations and build culture. You can try this in your own office.

One activity, called “A Side/B Side,” helps give a team the ability to talk about where they are succeeding and where they are lacking. The idea comes from the old 45 records, which were small records that only had two songs on them. Back in the day, they used to put the “hit song” on the A side of the record. Oftentimes, a less popular song would hitchhike along via the B side. In this activity, employees get to “make their own records.” Ask employees to pick out a song that reflects what is going well in the office. That will be their A side. The B side can be a song that reflects how the company needs to improve.

When this is complete, employees can then discuss their songs and why they chose them. In our experience, this leads to vibrant discussion and a few laughs. Everyone leaves with a stronger sense of the team or company’s aim, as well as a deeper sense of community and comradery.

In a time of such cultural, intellectual, and social diversity, we must pay extra attention to what binds us together. No number of posters or mission statements can overcome our most basic and human learning tools: play and interaction.

To move forward, we must revert back to children. Ironic? Maybe. Effective? Yes!

Brad Federman is CEO at PerformancePoint LLC.

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