Convince and Convert, Social Business, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Staffing and Operations, The Now Revolution

5 Attributes of a Healthy, Real-Time Culture

The future of business is not in measured, scrutinized answers or carefully planned initiatives. Business will soon be about near-instantaneous response; about making the best decisions you can with the extremely limited information you have; about every customer being a reporter, and every reporter being a customer; about winning and losing customers in real time, every second of every day; and about a monumental increase in the availability of commentary about our companies. Business will be always on, always changing, always moving.

Businesses must operate more nimbly and broadly than they’ve ever needed to before. They have to respond with confidence, fail quickly and learn from their missteps, motivate individuals, inspire teams, connect with customers, and demonstrate interest and compassion in their daily business endeavors. That’s far too much responsibility to place on the shoulders of one strata of an organization.

The people among your ranks and the employees you’ve brought aboard have to have the freedom and trust to help you evolve your business and infuse your intent in everything they do. To move as fast as you’ll need to, you must develop a healthy, real-time culture that pervades all corners of your organization.

Here’s five signs that you’re doing it right:


As scale increases culture becomes harder to disseminate throughout an organization. The breadth and diversity of larger teams makes it harder to ensure that culture is clearly communicated, absorbed, and put into daily practice.

You must define and articulate your culture with clarity.

McMurry, a fast-growing custom publishing and advertising company in Phoenix with 165 employees, has a fantastic, effective mechanism for ensuring that its cultural principles are shared and understood in every corner of the organization. Founder Preston McMurry walks the halls regularly, stopping team members at random. If they can recite the company’s mission and core values from memory, he gives them a $100 bill on the spot.

Demonstrated Trust

Every employee should have the chance to be a harbinger of change, to engineer something of value from wherever they happen to be—to find their way to success with guidance and support, but in their own manner.

Give them opportunities to weigh in on decisions and share their thoughts about everything from ideas to process, even if it’s not something that’s in their wheelhouse. It’s a great way to tap into the deeper talents of individuals; leverage the strengths, interests, and insights of diverse teams; and demonstrate your investment the people you’ve hired. Their ingenuity might surprise you.

Laboratories and Feedback Loops

Thriving cultures often have something in common: an appetite for experimentation and creativity to see what works, from products to process. It’s a healthy, adaptable organization that can be honest, challenge assumptions, and make changes based on opportunity instead of comfortable familiarity.

A culture that accepts failure is a culture of strength. Being willing to look in the mirror without emotional bias and decide what’s broken and adjust accordingly is a sign of smarts, of growth, and of perseverance.

Diversity of Individuals and Ideas

Although unity of purpose is important, diversity of ideas, opinions, and paths for getting there is what creates the character of an organization. Individuals need to know that their unique perspective is not only valuable but wanted.

Employees of Jones Soda, a 100-person soft drink company in Seattle, are known as “Jonesers.” At Jones, everyone’s ideas are embraced, which reflects their funky, eclectic cult of personality, something that’s always been core to their brand. Their energy drink, Whoopass, has a bottle design created entirely by employees, not by professional package designers or promotions experts. Every employee devises flavor ideas for new sodas, and the entire staff are taste testers. (Turkey and Gravy, miraculously, made the cut. Sadly, Astroturf didn’t.)

Reward Systems

People are often motivated by more than money. They’re looking for a sense of accomplishment, appreciation, and intrinsic value in the work they’re doing. Culture-rich companies know this and provide more ways for employees to be rewarded than paychecks and bonuses.

Not sure what motivates the people in your company? Ask. For some, it may be visible recognition. For others, it’s financial rewards. Flexible schedules, the ability to work on side projects, or vacation time are big motivators for some employees. Take the time to ask people how they’d like to be recognized for their work, and set up systems that allow management to respond accordingly.

These are the 5 attributes of a healthy company culture that can succeed in real-time, when employees from all levels of the organization must have the freedom to act fast and use good judgement. How many of these does your company possess?

(image by Shutterstock, a Convince & Convert sponsor)

This is the first in a 7-week blog post series covering themes included in The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social – my new book with Amber Naslund, debuting February 1 (pre-orders and first chapter for free available now).

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  1. Lori Turec says

    I have very mixed emotions about the prospect of a real-time business environment. Proper planning, root cause analysis and critical thinking all not done in a reactionary environment. “Ready, Fire, Aim” doesn’t work. It will be important to find the proper balance for flexibility, speed and thoughtfulness.

  2. says

    I love this Jay and just posted a blog link on my blog that will appear tomorrow.

    I liken this to a general on the battlefield having to take a “time out” to educate his troops on how to drive the tank, or understand the enemy, or ensure they know the mission – right as bombs are going off all around. As a brand strategist, I agree that the culture and brand need to be understood and lived out from the beginning if people want to be able to hold on during the crazy ride that is our business world today.

    I especially loved the CEO who walks around quizzing people about the mission. Seems silly, but realy, if you don’t know why you’re here, how on earth can you be expected to perform at the rate of speed needed to compete?

    Another great post!

    • says

      I agree, Maria. A thorough understanding of core missions and values of an organization is paramount in achieving success. Without team members understanding the true direction of a company, and the reasons for venturing in that direction, the audience won’t embrace the organization’s brand. Without that, so long to prospects of any kind.

      Great post, Jay.

  3. says

    Great list Jay. I think we offer all things on your list, at least to some degree. As with most companies, I find the best success we have is with clients who have cultures that are similar to ours. Barring that the next best thing is the department having a similar culture and finally the individual. This funnel helps us pick the clients best suited to an agency like ours. Ultimately, no matter the size of the company it is one person communicating directly with another person.

  4. Anonymous says

    Great post! Just want to put my two sense in regarding company values… I disagree with the McMurry way of reinforcing company values. Actions speak louder than words. Don’t reward someone when they can recite that company culture value #5 is, say, for instance, open communication. If you’re the manager or CEO and you see that someone encouraged open communication by facilitating a face-to-face meeting between two co-workers to collaborate on a project that was being misunderstood before, personally go up to the facilitator and say you saw that and you appreciate it. Just an example. Reward the **actions** – not the regurgitation of some marketing speak.

    HubSpot (@mvolpe, @bhalligan, @dharmesh) is a company that has a pretty cool company & culture:

    • says

      indeed, those Hubspot guys have a very strong culture. It helps to have a newer company, and such a well-defined purpose and mission. Lots of companies don’t have that any longer.

  5. letstalkandchat says

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out:

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