#CultureCode: Designing a Culture of Innovation

July 2, 2014

IDEO knows a thing or two about building businesses: The renowned design firm specializes in designing organizations, products and experiences that will revolutionize the way things work, and has helped revamp companies ranging from Kraft Foods to the National Health Services. So how did the international agency go about creating an innovative workplace of its own?

Building and developing a creative culture among employees has been at the core of IDEO from its founding, says Duane Bray, head of global talent. Indeed, IDEO’s culture has been written about by Harvard Business Review, among other publications.

The foundation of its culture rests on seven principle values, which IDEO published in the Culture Code campaign. Dubbed “The Little Book of IDEO,” it outlines optimal behaviors such as “embrace ambiguity,” “make others successful” and “take less, do more.”

“We wanted to signal the values and things we care about so that people can understand how they can be successful and the behaviors they need to show up at IDEO,” Bray says. “As we scaled we realized we need our values written down. They were already there, they just hadn’t been canonized.”

Every employee gets a hard copy of the book to review and keep. Job candidates are screened based on the seven values, and performance reviews measure against the behaviors.

Employees are also encouraged to share their own sentiments surrounding the values: Visuals promoting the values are placed in offices to encourage discussion, and video testimonials from employees were incorporated into a digital version of the Little Book.

“We didn’t want these values to just be top down, declaring to employees what to do,” Bray says. “Employees need a way to make them their own. You need to let them build off them, engage with them and build rituals around them.”

Others outside of the organization have taken notice, too. Bray says clients of theirs will read the book to better understand how to work with them, and they’ve gotten several requests to speak about their culture and values.

“It’s created a different dialogue between us and the world,” Bray says.

READ MORE: #CultureCode: Give Us a Peek Inside Your Workplace

Photo: ra2studio/Shutterstock