By Tara Lane, Emerging Leader
When Harry Potter’s wizarding ways first captured audiences in 1998, it wasn’t clear how much of a phenomenon it would become. J.K. Rowling soon joined the ranks of Tolkien and Lucas when it came to the fantasy genre. Children, teens, and even parents sped through the series unlike any books before it, waiting with baited breath for the next book release. Many still wonder how and why the series became such a hit; to the fans, it’s no surprise at all.
When people—especially children—read, they are looking to get lost in a world beyond their own. It’s no wonder Potter and the Lord of the Rings trilogy took off, and are still popular today; they have the literary “it” factor, taking readers through incredible fantasy worlds in a way that can’t be done by any other medium, delicately weaving in real life and make-believe worlds that come together in a very relatable way.
The Quincy, Mass., Patriot-Ledger recently quoted teacher Katie McCurdy saying, “I love being able to expose the kids to a world someone else created. It’s a great way to talk about fantasy and their own creative writing. … Harry does magic, but he also deals with the school bully and getting his homework done. There are characters that every kind of person can relate to.”
Just as Rowling, Lucas and Tolkien built worlds for their readers, CEOs and managers too have a responsibility to build a world for their employees—although not one of fantasy, of course. The culture and environment in a workplace is almost if not as important as the work itself. Employees who work in an environment with shared values and experiences, feel a bond with their coworkers, and are constantly encouraged and inspired will be more productive and effective. But how does one build that culture?
A good approach involves two steps: first, lay the groundwork for how you want the business culture to develop and where you want it to end up; and second, build in time to make changes as you go. Every culture develops differently, but having a vision in mind will help guide the process, especially when it comes to new ventures.
There’s a lot to learn from the fantasy genre, especially Harry Potter. Employing a vision while remaining flexible and open to experiment are beneficial attributes that can make a business culture even stronger. In building your “world inside a world,” having set goals that everyone knows about can help employees make the transition and ensure that the envisioned culture and environment will become a reality.
Creating, developing and maintaining a business culture, especially from the ground up, is not an easy task. It takes patience, knowing that the process will be slow and develop over time. Looking at the Potter series, each book built upon the one before it, with it’s popularity reaching new heights each time. The worlds became more elaborate and intricate, drawing in new readers along the way. In developing a business culture, this is the time when everyone starts to bring new ideas to the table, creating a culture unique to the business. Though trial and error can be frustrating, it can help develop a unique culture where everyone can be in their world “world,” and share a common bond with their coworkers. Like readers of fantasy united by their make-believe worlds, so too are employees in a business culture created, in part, by each other.
Rowling has been quoted many times over the years, saying that when she set out to write the books, she never had a specific story she was going to stick to. She knew how she wanted it to end, but didn’t know until she started to write each book how it would get there. Essentially, she applied the culture building strategies just described. She had a rough outline, but also let her imagination help her develop the story over time.
The most important aspect to keep in mind when employing culture-building strategies is knowing what kind of business you are and what you want it to be. Get input from everyone around you–employees, customers and even businesses similar to your own. Even if you don’t get it right the first time, it’s good to know you can change your process to fit your needs.
Photo by Devon Cartwright-Smith from Stock.Xchng