The Wisdom of Culture

Matt Certo

The importance of intentionally building your organization’s culture

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of culture. In school I learned how different countries had different ways of doing things -- different norms and expectations -- that seemed to become their unique modes of living and existing in community. Ranging from which side of the street we choose to drive on to praying publicly three times a day, different places have different ways of doing things. I’ve always been curious about these dynamics.

The same phenomena also occur in organizations. Whether it’s a family (after all, families are organizations, too) which has a certain way of celebrating birthdays, or an airline whose flight attendants sing their announcements, groups have cultures that are distinguishable and identifiable. They are as unique as fingerprints.

As the founder and leader of a digital marketing agency in Orlando called Findsome & Winmore, I’ve had an opportunity to observe and influence company culture for nearly 25 years. I take it seriously because so many great leaders I’ve learned from espouse its importance. The world’s leading management scholar, Peter Drucker, is oft-quoted for saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I also heard the CEO of Costco once say that “culture isn’t an important thing, it’s the only thing.” Those and similar characterizations are too credible to ignore.

As leaders, there’s perhaps no more important job than building the right culture for your organization. Whether it’s a team, classroom, family, or small business, any group will inevitably assume a culture -- a way of doing things. But it’s the job of the leader to influence it in positive, constructive ways. I strongly believe that leaders must be forward-looking in this area by designing a “blueprint” for creating a healthy culture. In other words, what would the ideal culture for our organization look like? Without such a vision, a culture will inevitably flow in directions that are less than ideal.

I think that the Bible also gives us many great lessons in culture that we can point to. Whether they are traditions, rituals, or norms and expectations, God’s Word provides an ever-flowing stream of teaching. I might also point to the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus gives us the ultimate cultural “blueprint” from which to absorb and follow.

To explore these ideas further, I look forward to collaborating with my fellow culture observer and student, Sam Certo, who happens to also be my dad. I’ve learned most of what I know about culture from him and always welcome the chance to talk about these ideas. I’d also like to talk about some of the key links I’ve found between a company’s culture and how it can create more customers. Many of these ideas have been discussed in my most recent book, Formulaic: How Thriving Brands Market from the Core, and draw conclusions from the work of great brands like Yeti, Farmers Insurance, and Chobani.

Organizational culture is illusive in many ways -- difficult to get one’s arms around. I’d like to share some of the ideas I’ve seen work in building culture and also some of the roadblocks and pitfalls I’ve encountered along the way. Please join us on Thursday, July 12, 2018, by registering online.  We look forward to seeing you there!