Ping pong won't solve your culture problem

Businesses world over are struggling to build and maintain healthy cultures. They’re reaching for tools and toys that organisations with vibrant cultures often appear to possess, feeling like they’ve glimpsed the solution: a new intranet platform, a company hack-a-thon, an open plan office or the ping-pong table that’s become a cliche.

We see this with online communities too. New bells and whistles, shiny new avatars, enhanced functionality. It’s bound to re-energise the community, right?


Re-architecting an organisational environment alone cannot change a culture.

Encouraging people to hot desk in different parts of the building is meaningless if those people don’t engage with colleagues when they relocate, or if they’re going along with it to ‘get along’ and not rock the boat.

Holding a hack-a-thon is fruitless effort if people aren’t motivated to get involved, don’t see why it’s relevant for them, or have no faith in the outcomes.

Diagnose the culture you already have

The first step in changing a culture is understanding the culture you have.

This process needs to run deep, but here’s a quick example of the diagnostic questions that need honest answers:

  • How are people on-boarded into your organisation? Is that process consistent and useful?
  • Do people feel like they have autonomy and agency?
  • Do people only feel comfortable working with those like themselves?
  • Do people feel they have to compete for resources rather than cooperate?
  • Are people spending more time defending their value in the organisation than getting on with the job?
  • Would social events or activities happen organically and without mandate?

Once you know where your culture is honestly at, you can start to plan for culture transformation using the science of community management.

Scuttle the urge to invest in the shiny new intranet or that ping-pong table, and start with the more challenging and far more rewarding work of by building human-to-human community within your organisation.

Photo: Patrick Kiteley


One thought on “Ping-pong won’t solve your culture problem

  1. “Do people feel they have to compete for resources rather than cooperate?” Even worse, are people *encouraged* to compete with each other in order to advance / be recognize / survive? No thank you. Great message, Venessa!

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