“Simon says…to play the infinite game” - Culture First 2019 - Day 3 Blog


Well I am ending my blogs on the Culture First Experience at the airport in LA about to make the trip back to Perth, Australia via Auckland, New Zealand. I am really ready to get home, predominantly to give my adorable and mischievous 5-year-old Spencer the biggest hug of all time. I have enjoyed some time to be away, plan for my business, refresh my perspective and be inspired and now ready to head back to reality and all the amazing things that await back home. Before I do that, here I talk about Day 3 of 3.


After another energy fused introduction from JD Peterson, Esther Perel from Where Should We Begin challenged us all in a positive and inspired way – at one point she asked us if we had ever not stood up and spoken out when we wish we had, needless to say, the whole room stood up. I loved the safe environment we were all in, it was certainly not the normal type of conference you attend. Then she made an even bigger request for us to stand up and the result of it was nothing surprising but made me realise I have changes to make when I get home…she asked us to stand up if the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do in the morning, is touch your phone, even if someone is lying next to you. I think a few reading can relate and don’t want that to be their reality and it simply doesn’t have to be.


We were then introduced to Dominic Price from Atlassian, with JD advising us he hasn’t stood still since 1984! Dominic was one of the main reasons I wanted to attend and I was already so glad I did, but he absolutely reaffirmed this view. Dominic’s title is Wok Futurist and he kicked off by announcing that he had the “best made up job in the world”. Brilliant. He talked briefly about Atlassian’s Values including “Be the change you seek” and “Don’t fu*% the customer”. It wasn’t too far into Dominic’s presentation I had a lightbulb moment – Dominic and JD need to do their own comedy show or podcast – this would be truly amazing and I think would be a hands down winner – perhaps Damon Klotz could co-interview them on his Culture First Podcast launching soon. We were also taken on an insightful journey through the Atlassian Playbook.


Next were the breakout sessions and I chose to attend one presented by Marta Riggins from Instacart – “How Instacart’s food centric employer brand elevates employee engagement”. Well I have never heard so many food puns in my life and I can really see how effective the puns along with their whole employee experience helps to shape their brand. We learnt of initiatives like talk series “A penne for your thoughts” and employee recognition “Carrot of the month”. Marta was highly engaging and so passionate about her work, Instacart is very lucky to have her championing their brand and people.


Continuing on with the breakout sessions I attended “Bringing HUMANITY back into the workplace” by Claude Silver – Chief Heart Officer of Vayner Media. Claude was beautifully spoken and the journey she took us on was well worth the choice of session. She talked about the mandate of her role – to infuse empathy throughout the business and touch every single employee (over 800) which is no small feat. She ended her session with a favourite quote from Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.


You may have heard the Black Eyed Peas song “Where is the Love”, however we were given a real treat by having it performed with a live rendition on Violin by Gaby. The whole audience was enthralled in her performance as she played and danced her way to the stage to welcome Pamela Abalu and Chinedu Echeruo from Love & Magic. Pamela and Chinedu gave us the keys to create symphony in business and made the very poignant statement that “meeting the unmet needs of your customer and solving their pain point is innovation”.


It was then onto our last breakout sessions before the closing keynote speaker, you may have heard of him, no big deal really, just SIMON SINEK!!!! Anyway, we will get back to Simon. For the last breakouts I chose Robin Hauser from Bias Film who spoke on “The surprising impact of our unconscious bias” and Steph Mann and Ann Foreman from At Your Core on “Living your values: Tools to enhance the employee experience”. Robin’s talk about unconscious bias hit home hard, it made me reflect on my journey to San Fran to attend Culture First and being asked more than a handful of times who was going to be looking after my son. I initially answered that I had taught him how to order pizza online and had hired a pack of wolves to watch over him, until I just simply answered – his Dad. There is still such a bias that 1) Dad’s are not involved in their children’s lives and 2) Mum’s shouldn’t work. Anyway, probably could write on this one for days. Then Steph and Ann really got us engaged and had us workshopping our values. They spoke of the concept of recruiting for values fit not cultural fit, this is a big step change I am keen to explore with my clients. The workshop exercises really got me thinking about what my clients do well and not so well.


And now, drum roll, the moment I think everyone was waiting for – Mr Simon Sinek who talked on the topic of his latest book “The Infinite Game” which I can’t wait to read. He spoke about people often trying to play a Finite Game, however the game we are playing is one that doesn’t end and you can’t win, therefore we operate with a finite mindset in an infinite game. Companies are often so concerned with their competitors rather than focussing on where they themselves are heading. A standout point for me was that some people are more afraid of breaking the rules than doing the right thing. It was just as amazing as I thought it would be hearing from him and what a way to end Culture First.


Key takeaways and comments from the day:

- We need to look at shifting our organisational makeup from a structure to a network.

- Modelling of behaviours is crucial and sets the scene.

- Growing is getting bigger, scaling is getting better.

- Every quarter: review what you have loved, longed for, loathed and learnt and then adapt accordingly for the next quarter.

- Great minds DON’T think alike.

- Dan Pink: “Argue like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong.”

- If you are too busy being busy, you don’t plant the seeds for the future.

- When you kill ideas in your organisation they go somewhere else.

- We should be hiring for Culture ADD not Culture FIT.

- Humans are the central operating system of a culture.

- Everyone has a reservoir of untapped potential waiting to be unlocked.

- Operating with: muscle was the past, brains is the present and heart is the future.

- Values are a code that details “how” to work together.

- Documenting values is not enough.

- Employees that leave are still representatives of your brand – they can refer and deter employees and clients.

- Employees are often made Managers or Leaders because they are so good at the job that they do. Unfortunately, they are then no longer responsible for the results, but responsible for the people that are responsible for the results – this is a big step change most are unprepared for.

- Be the leader we wish we had.


Well, that is it folks! The end of this Blog series, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the process so I am musing as to what I can write about next that might be of interest to people and that I am passionate about – any requests? Fingers crossed I am back to immerse myself and do it again next year. A big thank you again to Stephanie Brien and to the whole Culture Amp team for what was an inspiring and life changing event. Thank you so much if you have been reading these and liking, commenting and providing support, it really is appreciated.


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