The Architects of Culture

Placemaking in the Workplace

Originally posted on LinkedIn

Culture, by definition, is the collection of experiences shared across a group a people. What we go through together, both good and bad, unites a people. This is what makes a culture’s stories so important. They capture our ideas and give people their identity. Today, where “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” nothing is more critical to a company’s long-term success.

It is not enough just to say these things or to simply communicate these stories. We cannot entrust something so precious as our culture to email and newsletters. We must remember culture is the collection of shared ‘experiences.’ This shift in thinking repositions the function of communications. Leaving behind dusty practices for a more holistic approach to the employee experience. The future of communications, of storytelling, lies in the practice of placemaking.

Traditionally, placemaking is a civil engineering concept which popped up in the 1960s. It focuses on developing public spaces which promote the health, happiness and well being of the community. The connection to enterprise culture easily translates.

As communicators, how can we create a shared experience which promotes the health, happiness and well being of our associates? According to to the Project for Public Spaces, here are 11 principles to get you started.

The Community Knows Best

An important aspect of placemaking is taking into account inputs of the people who will be using the public space most = Ask the people what they want!

Places, Not Designs

The end result should be a cohesive unit that creates greater value for the community than just the sum of its parts = Creates a culture which is convenient for everyone involved succeeds.

Placemaking is a Group Effort

Partners for political, financial, and intellectual backing are crucial to getting a public space improvement project off the ground = Seek out executive sponsorship and get buy-in from leaders.

Make and Act on Observations

By observing how public space is used, it is possible to gain an understanding of what the community does and does not like about it = Know your people and your current culture, good and bad.

Requires a Vision

As with many other types of project, a placemaking project needs the vision to succeed = Dream big, collaborate. Put an end to “no, because” and think “yes, if.”

Requires Patience

A placemaking project does not happen overnight = Neither does change a culture of thousands of employees. Be patient.


Triangulation, simply put, is the strategic placement of amenities, such that they encourage social interaction, and are used more frequently = Nitty gritty detail. When Steve Jobs was planning PIXAR Animation Studios he wanted there to be only one set of bathrooms. Forcing folks to interact and socialize.

Ignore Naysayers

Just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done = Simply put, haters gonna hate and all fear change at some point in their life.

Form Supports Function

A public space’s form factor should be formulated with its intended function(s) in mind = Design solutions with purpose.

Money Should Not Be an Issue

If networking and team building have been executed correctly, public sentiment towards the project should be positive enough to overlook its monetary cost = There will always be a budget, in some cases, the budget will be $0 BUT this should never dictate your design. Design what you want to see then work it back.

Placemaking is an Ongoing Process

Placemaking is never “done.” = Two words, Continuous Improvement. Refine and redesign. The business landscape will always be in flux and we need to match and exceed those demands.

As communicators, we are creating a public space. We are not civil engineers but we are the architects of culture. Developing creative solutions to allow these cultures to flourish provides our function with the latest frontier to explore. The future of an industry, the next big idea to define tomorrow, will come from those closest to the business but it will never be heard if we do not begin building a culture we can be proud of today.


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