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Organization Culture and the Point of Origin

October 23, 2018

In the beginning…

One of the world’s most famous and quoted books begins – famously – at the beginning.

This method of telling a story exists for a reason:  humans want to know where it started. Whether it’s your company’s story of origin or the reason why La Croix sparkling water exists (it’s hotly debated), people have a burning desire to know.


Look around you. Go ahead. Scattered around your current location is probably some office supplies, maybe a person or two, books, your smartphone. Everything you see has an origin story, and more importantly, a purpose.

Ask any Christian “who is Jesus?” Young or old, every Christian can give you a somewhat cogent explanation of the story of how he came to be and why. In every church around the world, his origin story is discussed at least once a year, and usually weekly. The ritual leading up to Easter and the crucifixion ends the story of Jesus on earth but is – again – a beginning story. It’s the beginning of the Christian faith, just before the church.

So, if everyONE and everyTHING has an origin story, WHY don’t we tell this story more frequently about the companies and organizations we’ve built?

Can you tell a compelling story of the founding of your company?


Think about some of the “great” companies we all point to as examples of success. In the computer industry, Microsoft and Apple leap to mind. Bill Gates famously dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. Pretty good decision, I’d say. Same with Steve Jobs and Reed College.

Their decision to drop out of school and the attendant renegade status is just the beginning. Both huge personalities, each unique, were the driving force of their organization. In some sense, their will – or purpose – was the reason they dropped out of college and started a company.

In both cases, Gates and Jobs knew they could “change the world” by creating software and computers with a purpose.

Can you tell a compelling story of the founding of your company? The founder – you or someone else – had something they thought they could bring to the world. Did the founder of your organization “see a better way?” Employees want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

There is also a chance that the founder of your company (maybe you?) has lost sight of the organization’s purpose. Running a successful company requires constant work. The world in which you operate is constantly changing and the things that got you where you are won’t necessarily get you to where you want to go.

But your company’s purpose; it should hold up for many, many years. Your purpose and culture should last well after strategies and tactics have come and gone.

Southwest Airlines is a great example:  Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.

I recommend you watch this video in which Herb Kelleher, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, and current Chairman, President, and CEO Gary Kelly discuss change and the Southwest culture.

Gary Kelly says, “Even if we wanted our employees to stop serving our customers well, I just don’t think that they can do that.” That concept is purpose. If you define your company purpose well, you’ll attract the right people who would run through a wall to fulfill your company purpose.

If you’d like to learn more about Element 47’s Culture Engine process which will help you and your company discover your WHY, give us a call. You can learn more about the Culture Engine process here.

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