It may seem like a minor thing, but visual displays of corporate values can help employees to internalize those ideals as they go about their work. I’m very interested in the cultural artifacts that make corporate values apparent in the physical workspace–much as Johnson & Johnson does with the display of its Credo in its offices around the world. While having highly visible values doesn’t guarantee that employees live into them, it does help to socialize those values and ensure a base level of familiarity. And when everyday behaviors do align with the physical artifacts that are the topmost level of organizational culture, that’s when the magic happens.
While I was in Austin for SXSW, I had a chance to visit the Livestrong headquarters. Given my interests in cultural artifacts, I was excited to see that their corporate values are prominently displayed on a large wall in their open offices, where neither visitors nor employees can avoid noticing them:
We were there for a reception where Livestrong unveiled artwork commissioned in partnership with Eli Lilly and Company to celebrate clinical trial participants and their contributions to science. The Hero’s Journey project honors these participants in part by having some of them contribute to the art themselves.
The main structure of the artwork is a wooden egg, handcrafted in multiple parts. Participants are sent blank wooden blocks to decorate in a way that’s meaningful to them. The blocks, once returned, are added to the framework and become part of the finished piece. There are three “eggs” total; two on the Lilly campus in Indianapolis, and one in the Livestrong office in Austin.
Between their values on the wall, and now a large physical artwork that embodies the experiences of people Livestrong serves, their office provides an ongoing reminder to employees and visitors the purpose behind the work they do.