Co-creating elevating cultures

Cultural values influence everything we do.

They make us feel connected with each other, and when appropriately aligned, connect us with something bigger than the self. A healthy culture is an organisations and communities best friend, prompting a range of benefits including resilience, engagement, wellbeing and purpose.

However, when values alignment is off, business performance can take a hit, mental health issues can arise and resistance to change increases. In a rapidly changing and uncertain world, nurturing a healthy culture is highly desirable.

While this may sound reasonable enough, many are perplexed about what they can realistically do about it. Because we know you can’t just hang some values on the wall and expect a healthy culture to appear.

While culture and values may seem to be a mysterious force, they don’t have to be. Because with the use of participatory design practices, organisations and communities can come together to co-create healthy and elevating cultures.

Don’t impose: Co-create in concert!

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” — Peter Senge

The most common strategic flaw when designing culture is that its imposed by an external expert, a boss or a senior leadership team. Unfortunately, this is not how culture change naturally happens.

If you want to create an elevating culture, it’s best co-created by everyone within the culture. The change needs to come from the wisdom within the organisation or community and be coherent with who they are.

While there are many ways to think about co-creating culture, we really like David Gray’s approach with his culture map. By using visual mapping techniques, culture mapping is a simple way for everyone within an organisation or community to co-design the culture they want.

One of the strengths of this approach is that it enables everyone within a culture to purposefully find their own way — and co-create a culture that pulls them forward.

The culture map is a powerful tool for creating change that stick’s, because it emerges from the people discovering how they can become the change they seek. From their collective ‘aha’ moments about who they are and what brings out the best in their culture.

The architecture of an elevating culture

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us” — Winston Churchill

While culture mapping is great at empowering people to discover how they must change, it also highlights another important aspect about culture; our context.

Healthy and resilient cultures are based on feedback from, and partnership with, our environments. Designing buildings and places that reflect our values is central to creating elevating cultures.

Unless our physical environments reflect our highest values, the impacts of any culture change effort is likely to fade.

Becoming the change

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day.
Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a life time.
Co-create a culture that loves the ocean and everything thrives together.

Elevating cultures don’t just happen — and you can’t impose them either. They require loving participation from everyone involved — in concert with your unique context.

Therefore, if you’re in the business of bringing out the best in people, then guess what, you’re also in the business of co-creating elevating cultures. Co-creating culture is a valuable practice for purposefully promoting human, business and planetary flourishing.