Why internal culture is crucial for business success

category - society
category - workplace
sector - fashion
type - opinion
Businesses are swapping productivity and peak performance for a culture of connection, belonging and resilience as key metrics of their success

The workplace was once a space reserved for productivity and peak performance. Now, with growing awareness of organisations as living systems, driven by their people and constantly in flux, connection, belonging and resilience are coming to the fore as key metrics of business success.

As with all living systems, however, businesses have limited lifespans tethered to their environments and the people within them. Looking back, in 1958, companies on the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index (FTSE) had an average lifespan of 61 years. Today, it’s less than 18 years. Translated to today, this means that by 2027, 75% of the current FTSE 100 could disappear. At the heart of every corporate strategy should therefore be the question of relevance: what makes us relevant today and what keeps us relevant in future?

Amid a pandemic, economic and political instability, racial discord, data wars and incoming technology, employees are more concerned than ever about who and what they’re buying into, supporting and working for. Workplace culture is certainly being put under a spotlight – and organisations are having to find their place in societies and communities before they find their place in customer’s hearts, minds and wallets.

As one best-in-class example, Nike has made £4.3bn ($6bn, €5.1bn) since its campaign featuring civil right activist Colin Kaepernick, and outperformed its peers in stock price. In 2020, the brand continued its efforts by releasing an all-black jersey to commemorate four years since Kaepernick took a knee to peacefully protest against systemic racism and social injustice. It sold out in less than a minute. It’s a brand that so beautifully understands and executes its values, mission and purpose together to create momentum that transcends its internal culture, external communications and global customer base.

Published by:

25 October 2021

Author: Rupinder Mann

Image: Nike Air Force 1 x Colin Kaepernick


Nike Black History Month Jersey, UK

Indeed, connection, belonging and resilience define this period in our collective cultural history, but there’s no such thing as an indestructible brand. Culture, when done right, can be a shining North Star of opportunity, bringing with it a level of loyalty and leadership that can’t be matched. But it can also be a chasm in which to fall and there have been many casualties in the last two years as culture continues to lure businesses into landmines marked as opportunities. The last thing any organisation wants is to end up as a Netflix documentary with a catchy title.

Organisations paving the way in culture are busy creating a new land of opportunity where transparency, purpose and meaning reverberate outwards from every pore of their being. They connect and plant their feet within what matters most, accept their flaws and those of their people, while also creating opportunities for reflections of a new world order. One that’s both accessible and aspirational but moves beyond things we own, into helping us navigate through a world in flux to the other side.

Aligning a business begins with enabling its people. Gone are the days of leaving our emotions at the door. We now understand more about how compliance, fear and emotional contagion can degrade organisations over time. Imagine enabling your entire workforce – what could that mean for the future of a business? As we move further into the Transformative Twenties, businesses are uniquely positioned to connect people across cultural, geographical and economic boundaries, creating incredible ecosystems that are diverse, inclusive and representative. But to enable this, the dogma that resides in business hierarchies, processes and management practices must be exercised out – with intention. As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, once said: ‘Our ability to change our culture is the leading indicator of our future success.’

Rupinder Mann is founder and managing director of UnNamed Ventures, a people and culture advisory using behavioural economics and data science to help realise the unseen potential within organisations.

‘Aligning a business begins with enabling its people. Gone are the days of leaving our emotions at the door’

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