A good culture is the key to success

How to create an exploring culture by using the culture map

A simple tool for visualizing the culture of a company

The culture map from Strategyzer

Some time ago, I was professionally confronted with the challenge of establishing a culture of innovation within the company. Every company states on its website to be innovative. The word “innovation” has been so exploited that I asked myself the following question:

  • What constitutes an innovative culture?
  • What makes it noticeable to really have an innovative culture in the company?
  • How can you present culture in a way that makes it visible and easy to understand for everyone?

I came across the Culture Map in Alexander Osterwalder’s new book “The Invincible Company” at exactly the right time. Alexander Osterwalder and his team emphasize that successful companies manage to establish and live an exploratory culture. Most companies would focus too much on the exploit part of their performance, which is also reflected in the behavior of their employees. Through my own personal experiences in my professional life, I found this approach to be very applicable, which is why I decided to take the opportunity and use the tool actively for the first time.

In the following, I would like to present in more detail how to use the Culture Map and what practical experiences I have made with the tool in my everyday life.

The Culture Map from Strategyzer

First of all, I will briefly introduce the structure of the Culture Map. Afterward, I will explain how to use it and what things have to be considered. Especially if you are using new methodical tools that are unknown to most people, a detailed explanation is worthwhile. Finally, I will report on the concrete results and what the Culture Map has done for me and my colleagues.

Structure of the Culture Map

To begin with, I would like to mention that I am a big fan of the work of Alexander Osterwalder and the whole Strategyzer team. Therefore, I can only recommend their blog. They always manage to present complex interrelationships in companies in a very simple way, so that they are particularly easy to understand. In the same way, with the Culture Map they have managed to create a tool that clearly shows the otherwise often “invisible” culture of a company.

Culture Map template for download

The structure of the Culture Map is divided into three areas (from bottom to top):

  • Enabler / Blocker: Here points have listed that trigger or promote and/or block certain behavior. It is recommended to roughly divide the topics into the following areas: 1) leadership support; 2) Organizational Design and 3) innovation team practice.
  • Behavior: In the middle part, really very practical behaviors are listed.
  • Outcomes: The outcomes show the concrete result which is noticeable in everyday life.
Culture Map template with some examples as a flowchart

Use of the Culture Map

At this point, I would like to go into more detail about the use of the Culture Map and give a few tips on how the Culture Map can be used in teams, e.g. in workshops:

  1. Print the Culture Map template in a large size (best A0).
  2. Explain each of the areas in detail and make sure that everyone has understood the model.
  3. Distribute sticky notes and start in the middle area. Experience has shown that during brainstorming, the participants always think of concrete behavior patterns first. Good and negative behaviors should be listed (ideally with different colors).
  4. Avoid too long discussions during the brainstorming. Everyone should have the opportunity to write down their experiences without being influenced.
  5. After you have listed the behaviors, turn to the lower part, the enablers, and blockers. Here all thoughts should also first be wildly recorded on sticky notes. Then cluster the notes into the three areas (1.) Leadership support; 2.) Organizational Design and 3) Innovation Practice). It is not important to make exact separations — this is neither possible nor necessary. However, it is helpful to be able to make statements afterward about the areas in which improvements should be made.
  6. Finally, you turn to the upper area — the outcomes. Write down your thoughts about what you received (or did not receive) when certain behaviors actively occur in the company.

The method is best used when starting change processes in the company. Far too often the focus is on pure processes but forgets the lived culture. Especially the invisible processes in the background are crucial for the success of a company.

Results of the Culture Map and conclusion

Why should the Culture Map be used? What are the results of the Culture Map?

Companies very often think in purely monetary terms. In doing so, the employees are forgotten. The boss determines the culture and every employee has to submit to it. This will not work in the future! Innovative and disruptive companies need a culture that actively promotes exactly these factors. This requires a common and uniform understanding.

Culture is not given — it can be actively shaped and promoted.

The Culture Map is an excellent tool for this because it makes invisible processes visible. Supervisors and team members get a feeling for what is going well and what is not. Only when the behavior among each other is right for everyone, a living culture develops, and the basis for further changes and adjustments is created.

✦ Helping Visioneers to shape the digitized future and bring their ideas to life. As an engineer and entrepreneur I would like to inspire and generate sparks. ✦