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Even MORE Destinology: Curating a Creative Culture

Even MORE Destinology: Curating a Creative Culture


captureIn our final 2016 issue of Destinology, Curating a Creative Culture, we explored and celebrated the wonderful environment of PGAV Destinations, how we got there, and where we hope to go next.

We conducted extensive research and numerous interviews – all of which could’ve provided enough content for a years-worth of Destinology. However, as often happens in copywriting, we needed to distill, concentrate, and extract the most crucial aspects of those findings to create our quarterly, six article, 400 words-each publication you know so well.

Which means there’s so much more to tell!

This post captures some of the great studies and insights that were left on the cutting floor of Curating a Creative Culture. We hope they provide an excellent supplement to your latest reading, and help you better understand and nurture your own office or studio culture.

On the Importance of Culture

The Katzenbach Center at Booz and Company (now of PricewaterhouseCoopers) recently surveyed 2,219 executives to better understand their current perceptions of culture.

Key findings include:

  • 86% of C-suite respondents believe their organization’s culture is critical to business success;
  • 60% said culture is more important than the company’s strategy or operating model;
  • 96% said some form of culture change is needed within their organization;
  • 45% do not think their culture is being effectively managed.

Where is this focus on culture coming from? In Milewalk’s 2014 Annual Employee Survey, respondents were asked to identify the top ten elements that they consider when looking to change jobs. While “compensation” and “employee benefits” still rate number one, “culture” was a close second. Recent research from Deloitte notes that culture, engagement, and employee retention are now the top challenges facing business leaders. More than half of business leaders rate the cultural issue as “urgent,” up from only around 20% last year. As the US economy improves, employees have more bargaining power than ever before. “Thanks to social websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed, a company’s employment brand is now public information,” says Forbes contributor Josh Bersin. “So if you’re not a great place to work, people find out fast. This shifts power into the hands of job-seekers.”

Bersin defines culture as, “the set of behaviors, values, artifacts, reward systems, and rituals that make up your organization – you can “feel” culture when you visit a company, because it is often evident in people’s behavior, enthusiasm, and the space itself.” And Gestalt psychologists define creativity as, “something that generates a new idea, insight, or solution through imagination rather than through logic or reason.”

On Teaching



One of the greatest tests of our aptitude is our ability to teach what we know to others. Under those conditions, we challenge ourselves to see how well we know our craft, and how well we are able to communicate it in a meaningful way to others. And as almost any teacher would attest, fictional or real, that those they teach often ask questions or tell stories that bring a wholly new perspective to their work or their thinking, generating fresh creativity and ideas. (If you’d like an entertaining reminder, just re-watch 1988’s Stand and Deliver or 1989’s Dead Poets Society.)


A recent University of Kent survey of 2,113 graduates found that teaching was the “least boring” career choice amongst its graduates, citing that “the challenge of the role,” “no two days being the same,” “interaction with people,” and “the opportunity to use their creativity” made it an invigorating career. But you don’t need to be a teacher as a career to have opportunities to teach and reap these benefits.

In the destination industry, staff can be empowered to lead weekly meetings and share lessons or experiences at quarterly, all-staff presentations. Most commonly, we see our attraction leaders and scientists presenting sessions and leading workshops at annual conferences such as IAAPA, AZA, ASTC, TEA, WAZA, WWA, AAM, and many more. PGAV’s own Jim Wible, Director of Attraction Development, presented in December 2016 at St. Louis’s TEDx Gateway Arch. These types of opportunities open our team members up to questions and insights that can help expand our way of creative problem solving and bring new perspectives to organizational and industry challenges.


On Professional Development and Unstructured Time

Your top talent, if all goes as hoped for, will be with you for their career, not just a seasonal gig. Over the years, they’ll naturally grow, change, mature (or not – every office needs a goof or two), and discover new ways to add value to your destination. As your relationship evolves with those staff, you have the opportunity to help nurture and encourage that growth. Professional and personal development brings new ideas and intelligence to your staff, fueling the expansion of their creativity and wells from which to draw their ideas.

Many companies have this development built-in to their structure as internal growth and learning, as staff engage in rotational programs that can last upwards of two years, or internal job-shadowing to learn new skills. Staff often spend months working and learning within departments outside of their job-description-assigned role, or even in other offices around the country or world. This helps develop holistic problem-solving and understanding company challenges from multiple angles, encouraging big-picture thinking and collaboration with established relationships.

Other leading, global companies have put a focus on allocating paid time for staff to develop their skills, rather than ticking off the daily checklist or keeping their noses to the grindstone.

Amy Fries, author of Daydreams at Work: Wake up Your Creative Powers, says, “Offering up as little as 30 minutes of work time a week for exploratory thought could send the message that creativity is valued, no matter when, where, or how ideas are conceived.” Her book goes on to cite:

  • At 3M, every engineer gets an hour of time each day to do what they want, whether it’s working on a side project or a hobby;
  • At Maddock Douglas, a company that helps companies develop and market new products, the team is allowed 100 to 200 hours a year for pursuing anything of interest;
  • The maker of Turbotax, Intuit, also awards employees with time – three months of “unstructured time” can be allocated all at once or spread over six months for innovators to explore new ideas;
  • After the invention of Gore-Tex in 1969, WL Gore & Associates, Inc.decided to prioritize experimental innovation with “dabble time,” which allows employees to spend 10% of their work week on self-selected initiatives;
  • And as Hongkiat notes, Google developers get to spend 20% of their working hours on side projects. As an attempt to give employees the time and space to think innovatively, the program has yielded some of the best products of Google, such as Google News.

On Volunteering

To help foster a creative culture in your team, it’s essential to help them discover new sources of ideas and creativity. One such source is corporate volunteering. Not only does volunteering expose your staff to new teams and ways of problem solving, it also strengthens team cohesiveness, attracts new talent, and builds community relationships. According to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, in 2012 70% of companies enabled employees to volunteer with nonprofit organizations during paid working hours. The return on investment is immense.

A recent Cone Research study found that 79% of people prefer to work for a socially responsible company, and a Stanford Graduate School of Business study found that graduates are willing to sacrifice an average of 14.4% of their expected salaries to work at socially responsible companies. notes that two of the top ten reasons employees quit their jobs is due to a “bad or nonexistent relationship with their boss” or a “lack of relationships/friendship with co-workers.” In direct relation, UnitedHealth Group’s 2013 Health and Volunteering Study found that “64% of employees who currently volunteer said that volunteering with work colleagues strengthened their relationships.” As staff develop their internal relationships to a company, they become more engaged with and committed to the organization and their colleagues. A recent PwC study revealed, “Employees most committed to their organizations put in 57% more effort on the job – and are 87% less likely to resign – than employees who consider themselves disengaged.” And according to a study from Net Impact and Rutgers University, employees who say they have an opportunity to make a direct social and environmental impact at work report higher satisfaction levels than those who don’t, by a two-to-one ratio.

On Talent Mix

“The best way to ensure the company stays idea-focused is to hire idea-focused people,” says Matt Williams, CEO of the Martin Agency. “Because creative cultures aren’t dictated by management. They’re a product of everyday behavior by everyone in the company. Hire people who love ideas, reward them, and be fair but fast in rooting out misfits, and the creative culture will flourish.”



What are some of your favorite or strongest aspects of your company’s culture? What have been the most enlightening studies on culture for you? Tell us on Twitter @PGAVDestination!

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