July’s In Practice — Is Our Company’s Culture Contained Within Our Four Walls?

In Practice connects the Culturati community between Summits, sharing news and information about culture. In this issue, we focus on businesses playing a more important role in communities — politics and policies.

Should our corporate culture include responsibility for our communities, even for the politics that drive policy? And, would this bring our teams closer together or risk driving us apart?

The answer to the first question seems unique to individual companies — perhaps influenced by size, temperament and their existing definition of community. As to the risks of more broadly engaging, even in politics — more risks indeed. Though, I’d suggest we often already take these risks without a full assessment. Intentional or not, our lobbying and personal political choices are increasingly transparent and impact our reputation with the public, our employees and other stakeholders. We find ourselves saddled with a reputation defining our company — better if this is strategic and deliberate.

Jeff Hoffman and Andrea Bonime-Blanc in NACD’s March/April Directorship note that “There is no longer any doubt that reputation is a strategic risk that will only increase in importance and vulnerability in the age of hyper-transparency and super-connectivity.” With the NACD’s permission, we’ve included their article Seeing Opportunity in Reputation Risk,” in this month’s In Practice.

At WP Engine, Austin’s need for better paying jobs for non-college graduates syncs perfectly with their commitment to diversity, inclusion, learning & development as well as the need of a fast growing business for more workers. WP Engine’s Chief People Officer, Annette Alexander, writes about these practices driving their high-performance culture.

Serial entrepreneur John Battelle, founder of NewCo Shift Forum, sees little ambiguity, arguing that businesses are being called to lead, noting, “business is how our society works through our most pressing questions — How should we govern communication? How should we house and care for our people? How should we move around the city?”

Emphasizing the need for rational discourse, John notes that we should expect disagreements. We couldn’t agree more. Perhaps business can model how to disagree without being disagreeable . . . even if we must initially only agree on the questions (what are our community’s most pressing problems) without agreeing on specific solutions. When we establish a practice of agreeing at one level, we’ll find agreement at the next easier to achieve.

Richard Florida (author of The Creative Class and University of Toronto professor) in The Unfordable Urban Paradise suggests high-technology startups have contributed to new urban inequities. While acknowledging our contributions to job growth and wealth creation, he suggests we could be further engaged in finding solutions to underemployment, transit and affordability. The law, finance and manufacturing industries have long engaged in their communities, politics and policy making. This is relatively new for the technology industry and startup entrepreneurs.

In our businesses too often people speak over each other, the same voices dominate meetings, many of our brightest colleagues aren’t effectively encouraged to contribute, and we are too focused on quick wins rather than long term, sustainable solutions. Could practicing & modeling rational discourse contribute to community problem solving and, perhaps, help us overcome bad workplace practices?

As our opening panel at the 2017 Culturati Summit agreed, businesses are increasingly at the center of politics and societal change. We’re looking forward to discussing this more during the year and at our next Culturati Summit.

Eugene Sepulveda, Founder, Culturati

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