posted August 28, 2017

Culture Summit 2017: A Short Recap

Maggie O'Connor

After vacationing over a long weekend in NYC, I excitedly hopped on another plane to the west coast for a two-day conference focused on nothing other than workplace culture. I can’t recall how I heard about this particular conference but I do remember becoming immediately intrigued and almost instantaneously prepared to make a “Why I Should Attend Culture Summit 2017” case to leadership. A conference focused solely on culture? What?! It sounded like a dream. And now that I’m on the other side of it, I can report that it was. While my coworker (Jessica Neville) and I left that conference having soaked in loads of inspiring and actionable tools and pieces of wisdom, below is a shorter recap of the best advice we heard at Culture Summit 2017.

Culture Mapping

The first day of the conference dedicated itself to engaging and hands-on workshops. Each attendee chose two of five options. The first workshop on our agenda was, “Culture Mapping: A Systematic and Intentional Tool For Designing Great Company Culture.” You might be asking yourself, “Ok cool, but what exactly is culture mapping?” Well, consider it to be exactly what it sounds like. If a regular map is a representation of an area of land or sea showing physical features, cities, roads, etc., then consider a culture map to be a representation of a company’s external and internal features such as the people and the office space.

Intentional or not, every company has a culture. Culture mapping is most useful if you want to a) check your company’s culture pulse, b) scale your culture as your company grows or c) fix or change your current company culture. Stephanie Gioia of Xplane walked us through numerous different tools and exercises to use to do either of the above. And the tools and exercises were actually fun! For Dagger, I’m stoked to better understand how my coworkers view our agency’s culture. Finally, a way to start pulling and translating data! And while I believe our culture is exceptional, what keeps me up at night is how we scale it, or to use a better term, evolve it, as we grow.

Disruptive Diversity

The second workshop titled, “A Neurobiological Approach to Building a Culture of Inclusion,” was perhaps less practical but just as impactful as the first workshop. Rajkumari Neogy of iStart challenged us to rethink the foundation for the hot topic that is diversity & inclusion (D&I). We were taught that D&I begins with rewiring the right hemisphere of the brain to work in cohesion with the left hemisphere to create a permanent shift in how team members view themselves and one another. Relationship to self is equally important as relationship with others. Or to put it in mathematical terms: R (relationships) = EQ (emotional quotient) + IQ (intelligence quotient). In essence, trust in oneself and in others, language and self-regulation (i.e. introspection) must all be in place in order to create true belonging and inclusivity.

Day Two

The second day of the conference was just as eventful as the first. Not only was this a time when Dagger was affirmed in many of the things already in place, it was also a time when we walked away with some nuggets of truth, wisdom and inspiration. Keep reading for the TL;DR version.

“Our KPI? Infusing every employee with empathy.”
“Have the audacity to speak up. Make waves. Take up space.”
     – Claude Silver, Chief Heart officer at Vaynermedia

“Our core values are slightly aspirational. So there’s a tone circulating within the company that each person is constantly striving towards.”
     – Konval Matin, Director of Culture and Talent Development at Shopify

“Authenticity starts with you. You need to be more authentic. So, lead with vulnerability.”
“Even though love doesn’t show up in hard data, sometimes the most important things are the metrics we can’t measure at all.”
     – Sean Kelly, CEO of Snacknation

Without investing in culture you will not attract top talent.”
“B2E = Business to Employee marketing. Create cultural content that can be measured.”
“While culture may manifest itself organically, it may not sustain itself organically.”
     – Marta Riggins, Global Marketing Director at LinkedIn

“Employment is not a singular transaction between two people. Employees have to be treated as their own ecosystems in and of themselves. You have to know about me if we truly want to be inclusive and diversify.”
     – Nicole Sanchez, CEO and Founder at Vaya Consulting

“We are so busy fighting the present that we don’t have the capacity to envision our future.”
     – Lisa Lee, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Strategies at Pandora

So, was it worth it? A million times yes. I was personally affirmed in my belief that a positive workplace culture revolves around its people. I’m already excited about next year’s conference and I’m crossing my fingers that a few folks from Dagger’s Leadership team will attend, too. If there’s one takeaway I can give you, it’s this: in order to create culture champs, you have to believe that everyone is a champ.

If you’re interested in gaining access to my personal notes, takeaways, and tools/resources I gathered from Culture Summit 2017, find me on LinkedIn and shoot me a direct message.