Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
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Better Culture or Wisdom from the Petri Dish

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Maybe you noticed Google’s home page celebration on May 31, 2013, of the 161st birthday of Julius Richard Petri, inventor of the Petri dish. Well, that got me thinking—and not just about my own science class experiences with the funny looking shallow glass or plastic cylindrical lidded dishes. I was reminded on Friday that biologists have used this improved method to grow CULTURES, since abCherwell Company Cultureout 1877 when Julius invented the dish.

So what does this have to do with company culture? Glad you asked. Consider this: just as a petri dish culture needs, first, ideal conditions, and, second, nurturing, to flourish, so does a company’s culture.

Better culture starts with the right ingredients, and, for a company, that is its people. Key questions to ask include: Do you take the time to hire those that will flourish in the culture that you want to create? Do you ensure that those people want to be a part of the culture?

Next, growing a better culture requires creating ideal conditions for the culture. While it’s true that some of what we get in the culture of our company happens by accident—as it did for Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin—more often, good culture is a result of observation and nurturing to see what works well and what needs adjusting. Protecting the dish from a tiny element, for example, can save its contents from contamination and avoid the need to throw out the dish.

Leadership also plays a key role, as the conditions around the Petri dish illustrate. Just as the lead scientists must be committed to achieving the best results and remain objective around the decisions about contaminated dishes (often resulting in the disposal of a dish) so must the managers and other leaders make decisions in the interest of the larger goals.

It is true that cultivating a company’s culture is a delicate process, especially as the company grows. As more elements are added, the culture is going to change and develop, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. That is why if culture is important to the company, I believe extra care needs to be taken—positive, intentional, proactive care that results in ideal conditions and ingredients.

If the ground work is prepared thoroughly and the right elements are brought in, a company’s culture has a chance to grow in the best way. But as any scientist might say, observation of results and constant improvement will pay off with an even better culture that stands the test of time.

We aspire at Cherwell Software to have a great culture, and it’s what has driven our hiring decisions—values and culture as important as skills and experience. Our goal: to build a team of people who care for each other and create a place where we all truly want to come to work every day, toward the goal of being a part of something extraordinary. I know for me, that is one thing I appreciate most about the Cherwell culture: I work with people who inspire and challenge me to be the best I can be, just as I hope to inspire and challenge my co-workers to be the best they can be.

How are you nurturing the culture where you work?