Hi Jocelyn, thanks for sharing. There’s plenty of psychology work to support your conclusion (Social Learning Theory, etc.).
I wonder how culture is established at younger companies, where incentives and outcomes are yet to be defined? In the absence of explicit incentives (excluding business metrics), the most influential force will be whatever captures the founders’ interest.
Perhaps a design culture starts with a founder / early employee disproportionally rewarding design work with attention. Ditto for engineering culture, or even ‘win-at-all-costs’ culture.
Then the lesson for fledgling companies is simple; spend your time, attention, and praise wisely because every decision is a tradeoff. These decisions are magnified as a company grows and may reveal flaws in the cultural foundation.
As we are witnessing with some of the ‘unicorns’, foundational flaws are extremely expensive to retrofit and may never be entirely corrected.