Tyson Tuttle and Heather Brunner at Culturati Summit 2019 (photo by Ben Porter Photography)

What is Company Culture Anyway?

The Culturati Summit brings together the nation’s top business leaders to explore the power of culture and creativity

By Savannah L. Barker, Diversity & Inclusion at @CapitalFactory

Unlimited PTO? Employee retention? Breakfast tacos? How does one define and measure a company’s culture, and how does that culture evolve as a 10-person startup transforms into a company with over 600 employees? The Culturati Summit, now in its fourth year, attempts to address this question by bringing together C-Suite executives, thought leaders, investors and entrepreneurs to discuss and dissect the power of culture in the workplace.

The Summit opened with a keynote from Dr. Steven Tomlinson entitled “Culture for the Common Good,” setting the tone for the event by exploring the economic, social and philosophical arguments for building and maintaining a healthy company culture. Beyond it being “the right thing to do,” Dr. Tomlinson argues the new economy demands corporations act as better citizens to ensure they foster creativity and attract the best talent. Or as Dr. Tomlinson asks, “how much of your employees’ talent are you prepared to use?”

Dr. Steven Tomlinson speaking at the Culturati Summit (photo by Ben Porter Photography)

Dr. Tomlinson also challenges us to reconsider how we think about capitalism and the old model of doing things as it relates to profitability and motivation. Dr. Tomlinson asserts “culture is the principal asset of businesses that innovate.” The many facets that define a culture — from how teams work together to who’s included in decision-making — all impact a company’s ability to best utilize creativity, which directly relates to the bottom line.

“Culture is the principal asset of businesses that innovate.”

In addition to the larger keynotes, Culturati attendees were also given the opportunity to interact in more intimate settings, allowing for individuals to engage in deeper conversation. The dinner I attended was hosted by Aceable CEO Blake Garrett, and included a diverse range of individuals from large corporations to small startups, the tech sector to academia. We exchanged stories about our own experiences in our respective organizations, and talked about the challenges of maintaining cultural fluidity as a company grows.

“No matter the size, scope or industry, every company should be operating from a mission-driven perspective.”

While there were a range of opinions at the table, one thing we all agreed on was the importance of consistent communication and clearly-defined values. No matter the size, scope or industry, every company should be operating from a mission-driven perspective. Many of us reiterated the importance of ensuring a company live and breath its values, and if an organization’s professed values appear to be inconsistent with actual behavior, change them.

Culturati attendees gather for an intimate dinner to dive into deeper conversation (photo by Ben Porter Photography)

Of course, it is almost impossible to discuss the importance of culture without addressing the ways in which diversity, equity and inclusion operate within an organization.

My favorite keynote of the day, “Systems of Bias: Straight talk from the front lines of DEI” featured Candi Castleberry Singleton, VP of Intersectionality, Culture, and Diversity at Twitter, Caroline Wanga, Chief Diversity Officer & VP of Human Resources at the Target Corporation interviewed by Josh Jones-Dilworth, Co-Founder of the Culturati Summit.

“You can be a diversity and inclusion practitioner in the work you do every day without relying on one person to go out and do the research.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion are often treated as an afterthought by companies, but I was happy to see the conversation front and center at Culturati. Building a truly equitable and inclusive culture requires resources, ongoing commitment, and sincere buy-in from leadership.

Candi Castleberry Singleton, Caroline Wanga and Josh Jones-Dilworth discuss Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (photo by Ben Porter Photography)

So what are my biggest takeaways from the Culturati Summit?

  1. Culture starts at the top
  2. A company should live and breath its values and revisit them regularly
  3. Clear and consistent communication is key to a company’s success
  4. Employers should invite feedback and encourage creativity from their employees
  5. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is the collective responsibility of an organization, not a single person or department

I look forward to continuing the conversation.

About Culturati

Culturati is a community of CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors and other C-Suite leaders who practice & study culture building and share our playbooks. We’re leaders — from technology, finance, banking, the arts, other industries, educational institutions and government — who get the power of culture. We organize impactful & actionable keynotes and breakout sessions for the annual Summit. We share information online, in our recently published book (The Culture Book V1: When Culture Clicks) and at our Culturati Connect events hosted around the country. To learn more, visit culturatisummit.com.

Savannah L. Barker

Savannah L. Barker is a Culturati Fellow and leads Diversity & Inclusion efforts at Capital Factory, the center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Texas.

Follow her on Twitter or contact her directly here.

Go to the profile of Savannah L. Barker