Culture System Design

4 min read

Today, it's not enough to create change above the waterline and at the level of symptoms and structures. We need to work even deeper and change the underlying paradigms of thought. 

We invite you to live the questions together and co-create your organization's path to greatness. 

You may be asking yourself: What aspects of our culture are collapsing? What aspects do we need to reinforce or reinvent moving forward? How can we energize and empower ourselves to be “Cultural Champions” during disruptions and major paradigm shifts? What can we do to reach a level of cultural coherence in our society?

Culture System Design is a process to gain perspective and answer these and many other questions.

This process allows you to take an integral approach to your culture. “Integral” because it integrates and brings together design thinking, system thinking, disparate theories, perspectives, and systems into a single coherent understanding of our organizational cultures.
Culture System Design Process Image
One of the most important elements of Culture System Design is that it enables co-creation!

It is essential that you co-create your culture with your people. Everyone in your organization is a designer and champion of your culture.

We all co-create the world we live in through our relationships and our behavior as citizens, community members, employees, and consumers.

Culture System Design, in its broadest possible sense, can help us integrate the remarkable wealth of specialized knowledge, skill, and shared aspiration that rests within your organization.

It is essential to take this approach and allow the "system" to see itself. This will unlock new levels of innovation and the realization of a number of breakthroughs. 

This is all about co-creation, co-facilitation, and co-designing within your culture. 

Engage & Empathize

The first essential step is to understand, at a deeper level, your organization for what it really is and how it is actually behaving today. We need to build a foundation for change. 

Here we identify the stakeholders that need to be involved and map out your organization and its culture to show the strengths and areas with the most growth potential. This provides you a holistic perspective into how your culture is operating today and gains a system-wide perspective.

Systemically assessing foundational and transformational needs and priorities is essential to sustainably manage your culture to support new strategies, meet business objectives, and innovate for the future.

Two of the main outcomes of this first step are to understand how we are operating today and develop alignment around which organizational elements and high-performance behaviors that we will need to go to work on.

We call this "Cultural Ecosystem Mapping" and some of the main tools used in this phase are; Surveys, stakeholder interviews, focus groups, sensing journeys, and leadership alignment workshops. 


Example Output - 


This is your first step to creating an organization of leaders that champion three-dimensional culture evolution - from the top-down, bottom-up, and inside-out.

Bonus Note - It is essential to develop a collaborative mindset, i.e. the ability for individuals to work with one another. Introducing these skills early in the process is important, as your culture requires improving the relationships between the individual elements - the people! That's why empathy is such a powerful element to incorporate. Empathizing includes making people feel comfortable to share information, creating a shared language that allows them to see the bigger picture, and speaking in ways that encourage “zooming in and out” to think systematically. It can be extremely valuable to introduce the following concepts, to name a  few: what is system thinking, the iceberg of culture, what are system paradigms, and more.


Once we have found clarity around where we are today, we can then start connecting and designing the future - individually, within our teams, and as an organization.

Here we invite you to dream and tune into the emerging future possibilities. Acting from this space, we can envision a better way to operate.

This is an excellent way to improve collaboration, boost morale, and empower employees to shape the future together.

Developing this shared sense of direction involves clarifying the mission, vision, and values of the group and begin energizing the system for change. It’s all about clarifying the future we will create together. Once you start to energize the culture and clarify its future state, you will start to highlight key aspects of the current reality (from the engage & empathize stages) in relation to the vision created in the energize stage. This creates an immediate progressive tension for the culture. The Iceberg of Culture is a useful tool here as you start to map out the differences between the current reality and the future at multiple levels. Having this shared direction and contrasting it with the current reality provides a strong foundation for cultural evolution


iceburg pic snap



Once we have designed and provided ourselves with a new soulful way to run our organization and how to operate on a day-to-day basis, we can start to take our first steps into making that change a reality.

Here we design connections within our systems, identify key intervention points and develop action-oriented solutions. In these co-creation sessions, we look at the different contexts that reinforce our cultures every day and the powers that drive our behaviors within those elements.

One of the key areas of focus is creating structures where your people at all levels can be proactive change agents. To do that, we need to provide immersive learning experiences for your people to equip them with the tools and practices to drive the change forward.

Part of this strategy development is building playbooks that help your teams communicate the change. Your people can utilize these playbooks in order to roll out these initiatives to customers, peers, and other stakeholders. Providing a defined and aligned brand & culture experience.

These playbooks typically include the deeper levels of who you are (your purpose, values, vision) and your strategic direction (goals, impacts, activities, value creation process, and performance enablement frameworks). Communicating to people, who you are and how you are operating/behaving, and the value you are creating for your various stakeholders. 

Culture Operating System Image

We all know about many episodes and stories of great transformational change and breakthroughs… But at the end of the day, they remain merely that: episodes. Sooner or later, your culture snaps back into the old ways of operating. This is why leaders become so frustrated with culture change - it typically never sustains. 

The reality is our world and systems are incredibly dynamic and we need to create a cultural strategy that reflects that. We need to attend to the core foundational elements of culture evolution - Engage, Empathize, Energize, and Empower. It's a constant interactive flow that you and your organization will operate in. 

The way we do that is by developing the rhythms, rituals, and routines that have been proven to be helpful in creating the conditions to co-evolve our cultures. This is a key way to start instituting cultural governance systems to manage and sustain the desired culture that we have designed.

Make sure to remember what the definition of a “Perennial” culture is; It’s something that is lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring. That's where you unlock the power of continuous growth. When the external environment changes and throws new challenges at you, this process will enable evolutionary resilience that withstands the test of time and hardship.

Going forward, and living within this paradigm, you will forever have a strong foundation built on purpose, live in evolutionary growth, be nurtured with empathy, and empowered to grow and flourish with sustainability.


This is culture evolution & culture system design. We hope you join us on the journey! 

Perennial Tree Image


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