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12 Examples of Powerful Cultures from Successful Companies

Lessons and inspiration from successful company cultures mapped with the Culture Design Canvas.

Gustavo Razzetti

January 19, 2023

Examples of successful workplace cultures mapped with the Culture Design Canvas.

The culture of an organization encompasses much more than the values and purpose of your company. The Culture Design Canvas is the #1 tool to map the current culture of an organization and design the future state.

Culture matters because it boosts productivity, agility, employee engagement, and innovation. A strong, positive workplace culture precedes business results.

Each workplace culture is unique; the purpose of these examples is not for you to copy them, but to compare them with your own company’s culture, reflect on yours, and explore possibilities.

Every month we will add a new example of a powerful company culture mapped with the Culture Design Canvas to inspire your own. On this page, we curate the different examples and provide links to the full posts of each successful workplace culture.

If you want to learn more about how to use the Culture Design Canvas, read this post about how to map your workplace culture, or join the Culture Design Masterclass.

Looking for inspiration? Read on to see some great examples of company culture.

Pixar’s Creative & Collaborative Culture

This is a perfect example of how company culture precedes positive results. Pixar's culture is the secret sauce to developing so many box office successes.

Originality is fragile – no one understands this better than Pixar. You need a peculiar culture to identify the potential of “ugly babies,” as Ed Catmull calls early ideas. Pixar promotes psychological safety in order to nurture and encourage the first iterations of originality before turning them into beautiful creations.

The secret to Pixar’s success lies in balancing creativity with collaboration. While most creative organizations promote internal competition, Pixar adopts a different approach. Colleagues provide feedback to each other to help improve other teams ideas. People are expected to get used to feeling embarrassed in public by showing works in progress.

Pixar practices radical candor to promote transparent conversations. Colleagues are not meant to judge their peers, but the work. Collectively, they help turn ugly babies into beautiful ones. People respect each other. However, no one pulls punches to be polite.

pixar creative and collaborative culture mapped using the culture design canvas

Read the full blog post to discover the different building blocks of Pixar’s company culture.

Netflix’s Freedom & Responsibility Company Culture

“In many organizations, there is an unhealthy emphasis on process and not much freedom,”  reads the Netflix culture memo. No surprise then that, at its core, Netflix’s company culture is about “people even over process.”

Netflix’s culture deck captures its approach to building a high performance culture and setting teams in an environment that enables them to excel. Employees are given freedom (and authority) to make decisions; managers should provide context when needed, but shouldn’t influence decision-making. Netflix believes that performance, not effort, should be rewarded. Only A-players are rewarded; others are invited to leave and offered a generous severance package.

The video streaming company operates under one principle: Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled. Strategy and goals should be clear and broadly understood. However, teams have lots of freedom to implement tactics, ensuring they can move fast.

netflix organizational culture deck explained using the culture design canvas

Netflix is a perfect example of how culture precedes accountability and business performance. Here’s how the company did it – an analysis of Netflix’s workplace culture applying the Culture Design Canvas.

Southwest Airlines’ Fun & Loving Culture

Southwest Airlines’ culture is woven into all aspects of the company, from business performance to employee happiness. The airline puts employees first; this tribal type of company culture promotes strong relationships among colleagues.

Three crucial elements define Southwest Airlines’ company culture: appreciation, recognition, and celebration.

A decade or so ago, the company decided to formalize its workplace culture by identifying six core values and creating a Culture Services department.

Southwest Airlines has many rituals to bring its values to life and celebrate each other. One of the most significant is “Culture Blitzes” in which a team visits an airport, touching every Southwest employee with food, fun, and support. The team even cleans the planes, allowing the crew to leave as soon as they land.  

Southwest Airlines Culture Design Canvas Fun Loving company

Read the full post to discover how Southwest Airlines designed a fun and loving company culture.

Slack’s People-First Company Culture

Slack’s company culture is a vivid metaphor of its own product. The company acts as an excellent collaboration hub, embracing an open by default communication approach. Rather than choose specific channels, Slack’s CEO wants communications to be transparent so everyone knows what’s going on and are able to provide solutions.

At Slack, people work hard and go home. The company culture understands that people have lives – they expect high performance and total dedication, but only during regular working hours. Funnily enough, employees are forbidden to use the Slack app after 6 pm or during the weekend.

The power of words plays a crucial role in Slack culture. Employees are encouraged to speak well and with purpose. There’s an obsession with continually improving communication – both their own and their clients’.

A strong sense of community is essential to Slack’s powerful company culture. Empathy is vital to not only understanding the end user, but also their colleagues. Slack promotes diversity and recruits people with diverse backgrounds and voices. Everyone has an obligation to contribute and make things better.

slack people first culture design canvas by gustavo razzetti

Read the full post to learn more about Slack’s company culture.

An Unfamiliar Example of Successful Company Culture: Atlassian

Australian tech giant Atlassian is not as well-known as Netflix and Zappos when it comes to discussing examples of successful company cultures. However, reviewing Atlassian's workplace culture will not only inspire you but provide with actionable tools and approaches that you can test in your organization.

Atlassian understands that a culture of innovation requires autonomy, time, and tolerance for failure. As the company states on its website, “Behind every great human achievement, there is a team.” Atlassian’s mission is to help unleash the potential of every team; its products help advance humanity through the power of software.

Feedback plays a key role at Atlassian, helping build an award-winning culture. One of Atlassian’s core values is “play as a team.” It’s embedded in everything the company does, from their approach to business and software development to an environment that encourages collaboration and transparency.

A culture of regular, peer-to-peer feedback promotes psychological safety, collaboration, and innovation. As Scott Farquhar, Co-Founder and CEO, says, “When information flows freely, it provides everyone in the organization with the right context to unlock their creative ideas.”

Atlassian has a set of unique policies that build trust and engagement. For example, new hires are offered a paid vacation before they even start on their new jobs. Everyone is also offered volunteer time-off and can allocate up to 20% of their working hours to discovery and exploration.

this is atlassian culture design canvas mapping on one page atlassian's values purpose and rituals

Building a strong culture has helped Atlassian achieve tremendous business success. In this post, we mapped and analyzed Atlassian’s culture, applying the Culture Design Canvas to get you inspired.

Airbnb: A Culture Where Anyone Belongs

Airbnb has managed to build a culture that is not only committed to its purpose and core values, but also a relentless belief in candid two-way communication. The rule of thumb is that nobody should hear about anything externally until they are first told internally. The perfect example of this are leadership meetings – employees get the notes of everything that was discussed just 24 hours after each executive meeting.

Being a host is central to Airbnb’s culture – it applies to both customers and employees. Everyone is welcome at Airbnb; building a sense of belonging is the secret sauce. The all-company meetup provides updates of what’s going on in the company and every employee can chime in. The annual company-wide conference incorporates employees breaking down walls and integrating community.

Cultivating empathy and understanding is vital to building a culture where everyone belongs anywhere. Airbnb’s founders started the company as hosts, not guests, and encourage employees to experience being a host, too.

airbnb belong anywhere mapped with the culture design canvas by gustavo razzetti

Airbnb’s culture makes everyone feel included. Read the full post to find out how the company did it.

Zappos’ Wow Our Customer Culture

Zappos is more than a company; it’s a mission. The purpose of the online retailer is to “live and deliver WOW.” According to its founder, Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ core values are more than just words; they’re a way of life.

This strong tribal culture operates in black and white terms. Either you are a Zapponian, or you aren’t. The “Pay-to-quit” bonus is a perfect example of this. Once they complete the New Hire Training program, employees are offered money to leave the company. This rite of passage puts people in challenging situations – they must choose between cash or staying. The large majority chooses the latter, thus strengthening Zappos’ culture.

There are hundreds of company-wide events at Zappos. The majority are meant to build a strong sense of belonging, encouraging people to be themselves in public and making it okay to be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. Weirdness is not just a value, but a key trait when recruiting new employees.

Inclusivity and diversity are its core, as well as being supportive of many initiatives for people with special needs with the Zappos Adaptive program.

zappos culture design canvas is a tool to map organizational culture

We analyzed and reviewed Zappos’ culture using the Culture Design Canvas. Read the full Zappos post for inspiration.

My Favorite Example of Company Culture: Patagonia

When Yvon Chouinard founded outdoor gear and apparel company Patagonia, he wanted to build an “un-company.” He understood that to take care of employees, customers, and the planet, business as usual was not an option.

Over the years, protecting the planet became the company’s purpose, not just one crucial element in Patagonia’s strategy. The current company purpose is, “We are in business to save the planet.” Everything Patagonia does, from its core values to priorities, put the Earth first.

Patagonia is the perfect example that being purpose-driven and altruism are not enemies of financial performance. The company has outperformed its competitors proving the importance of culture.

patagonia culture design canvas discover the outdoor clothing company culture in one page

Discover how Patagonia’s culture was designed around the purpose of saving the planet.

An Example of an Agile Company Culture: Spotify

Building a strong, agile company culture has contributed to Spotify’s rapid growth. Its experiment-friendly culture with an emphasis on test-and-learn and mistake-tolerance has become the paradigm for many to follow.

One of the clues lies in balancing employee autonomy and accountability. Spotify’s approach starts by aligning employees around one shared purpose and allowing teams to discover their own way to get there. This requires providing freedom for experimentation, balancing alignment with control, and autonomous team structures that are fully accountable..

At Spotify, flexibility is not about what people want, but about being more mindful of their choices. For example, take the “pull the plug” norm. While executives in most companies keep pushing projects even if they lack traction, Spotify employees are data-informed – when they don’t see the expected results, people can pull the plug.

Spotify employees are encouraged to break the rules with a purpose. If something works, they keep it; otherwise, they dump it. Context matters too. Spotify culture works under the premise that “What works well in most places, may not work in your environment.”

Spotify agile culture mapped using the culture design canvas

Read the full analysis of Spotify’s agile culture using the Culture Design Canvas.

HubSpot’s Culture Code Treats Culture Like A Product

HubSpot’s workplace culture is driven by a shared passion for its purpose and business results. The marketing software values are captured in the acronym HEART: Humble, Empathetic, Adaptable, Remarkable, Transparent. Employees are expected to not just perform well, but to have HEART.

Transparency and trust are essential to HubSpot’s success, operating with a default to open policy. Employees are considered insiders, ensuring they know everything that affects the company before the press or investors do. HubSpot’s culture is built on the foundation that power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.

HubSpot’s leaders understand that designing and building a workplace culture is a never-ending task. The Culture Code – HubSpot’s culture document – has gone through dozens of iterations.

The software development company approaches culture like product design; HubSpot’s Culture Code has the same approach that programmers use to write software. The only difference is that, rather than creating it for users, they built one for their employees.

Read the full post on HubSpot’s product-like culture.

How IKEA’s Culture Facilitates a Better Everyday Life

Similar to Zappos and Southwest Airlines, IKEA has a tribal type of culture; togetherness is at its heart. IKEA’s employees are strong when they trust each other, pull in the same direction, and have fun together. The Swedish retailer aspires to be a force for positive change.

IKEA’s purpose is “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” Since its beginning, the company has sided with the many – what’s good for customers has proven to be good for IKEA, too.

A lot has changed since IKEA became a global player. However, some key elements of its original culture – shaped by its founder – are still present.

A simple, straightforward and down-to-earth way of being is part of the Swedish village heritage.

Austerity plays a vital role in how decisions are made at IKEA, considering that cost-consciousness and simplicity are at the core of the company. Kamprad believed that, “Wasting resources is a mortal sin.” Before approving a decision, employees must really understand the costs and financial impacts.

ikea culture design canvas captures ikea family friendly culture in one page

Read the full post on IKEA’s Culture.

How Amazon Scaled Innovation by Working Backwards

Amazon's “Working Backwards” unique organizational culture has both fans and detractors. What seems an aggressive, high-performance culture for some is dubbed “purposeful Darwinism” to others.

Pushy, aggressive cultures are usually perceived as outdated. However, both Amazon andNetflix prove this belief wrong.

There’s a huge difference between “think like a startup” and actually acting as one. Amazon operates with a “Day1” mentality – a culture and an operating model that puts the customer at the center of everything, just as if it were its first day in business.

“We need to plant many seeds because we don’t know which one of those seeds will grow into a mighty oak.” –Jeff Bezos

To say that Amazon is an unusual organization seems like an understatement. The company has been able to scale its culture of innovation, challenging all business conventions.

Read the in-depth post about Amazon's innovative and agile culture.

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Article by Gustavo Razzetti, CEO of Fearless Culture

Gustavo facilitates courageous conversations that drive culture transformation. He is a sought-after speaker, culture consultant, and best-selling author of the book Remote, Not Distant.

Razzetti is also the creator of the Culture Design Canvas – a visual and practical method for intentionally designing workplace culture. His insights were featured in Psychology Today, The New York Times, Forbes, and BBC.

What do you think?



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