Earlier this month, I focused on the importance of being thoughtful and intentional in our remote interactions and included a few questions to help you evaluate your organizational culture. Today, I want to take a step back and reframe what intentionality means when talking about culture.

But, first, let’s define culture. For the past decade, the word “culture” has become a staple in business. Countless books, articles, quotes, and companies highlight — and often preach — the importance and necessity of a healthy culture. We even spotlight companies with toxic cultures as fables of worst practices. But we rarely stop to define what exactly it is that we mean.

Culture is the emergent believes, attitudes, behaviors, and dynamics of a group.

Why is culture emergent? The simplest way to understand this comes down to our lack of control.

The way people act when they come together — group dynamics and behaviors — and what they grow to believe as a group — cultural beliefs and attitudes — are unknown until you get everyone together.

Then, there are external factors — such as company policies or new group members. Emergence allows us to account for the impact of these externalities on the culture.

Emergence also means we can’t control, design, or manufacture culture. If we try to control it, our efforts will likely yield unintended or unwanted results.

While we can’t control culture, we can influence it; and this is where we have the opportunity to be intentional.

Organizations can intentionally try out new activities, practices, routines, or introduce new artifacts or policies; and observe what emerges. Then, adjust based on the results, doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Just like remoteness demands intentionality, culture demands experimentation.

Unsure what to try? Ask your people. Crowdsourcing ideas increases the likelihood of adoption and success.

Business designer, strategist, consultant, facilitator. Building people-positive, sustainable systems that fuel innovation.