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Interview with Adam Grant:
Four Insights for Building a Culture First Company

To transform your company's culture, you need more than just an inspiring vision - you need science. And when it comes to the science of organisational psychology, there's no one better to turn to than Dr. Adam Grant.

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Adam Grant's insights and research have transformed the way we think about work and culture, and after hearing him speak recently, I've walked away with four powerful takeaways. From rethinking how we hire and build teams to using storytelling to communicate change, Adam's ideas are more than just theory - they're practical, actionable steps that you can use to create a Culture First organisation. So let's dive in and see how we can use science to create a workplace that truly thrives.

In a recent interview, we sat down with Dr. Adam Grant, a renowned organisational psychologist and bestselling author, to discuss his thoughts on building a culture-first company. Here are the four insights he shared with us:

Make research accessible and engaging

As a scientist, Grant is known for his deep research on the world of work, but he also has an amazing ability to tell stories. He shared with us his belief in making research accessible and engaging, and provided examples from his latest book, Originals. Rather than just telling us what we should do, he encourages us to try experiments in our own organisations. Grant suggests that testing out an idea and seeing what happens is sometimes the best way to see research in action.

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Givers and takers

When it comes to creating a strong culture, Grant believes it’s not enough to just keep good people. It’s also important to make sure you don’t bring the wrong people on board. Grant’s research on giving and taking has found that the effect of someone who is selfish can be two to three times bigger than the effect of someone who is generous. Therefore, the negative impact of one person in a company can potentially outweigh the positive impact of three other people. Grant uses data in a practical way to help leaders think about applications in their own organisations. His insights provide a powerful foundation for building a Culture First organisation.


Don’t hire for culture fit, hire for culture contribution

In our discussion, Grant shared his thoughts on culture fit versus culture contribution. While it’s important to keep people who are a good fit with your organisation, it’s equally important to avoid falling into the pattern of hiring people with the same background and experience. Instead, Grant challenges leaders to think about what contribution a person can bring to their culture. As a company grows and evolves, it’s important to deliberately sit down and think about the contribution that new people will bring. Leaders should aim to bring in people who add something to the culture and change it for the better. This idea of hiring for cultural contribution, rather than cultural fit, is especially important when it comes to real diversity and inclusion.

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Use storytelling to make the unfamiliar familiar

Grant also shared his insights on storytelling as a powerful tool for change. As a great storyteller himself, he talked about how you can take people on a journey by making the unfamiliar familiar when you’re trying to communicate change. For instance, he used the example of Disney’s The Lion King movie. To sell the idea internally, the producers took a familiar storyline to explain their idea. They described The Lion King as the story of Macbeth told with lions in Africa. By taking something that people already knew and using it to help them go on a journey, they made the unfamiliar familiar. This storytelling technique can be a powerful way to communicate change for a company. 


It's clear that Grants' insights have given us a lot to think about. From making research accessible and engaging to hiring for cultural contribution, and using storytelling to communicate change, his ideas challenge us to think differently about how we approach building a strong company culture.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of our organisations, but taking the time to step back and consider the impact of each individual on our culture can make all the difference. By hiring for contribution rather than fit, we can foster a culture of diversity and inclusion, while also ensuring that each new hire brings something unique and valuable to the table.

And when it comes to communicating change, there's no denying the power of a good story. By making the unfamiliar familiar, we can take people on a journey and bring them along with us as we navigate new territory.

Consider the insights we've gained from Adam Grant, and think about how you can put them into practice in your own company. With a little intentionality and a lot of creativity, we can create a culture that not only supports our businesses but also empowers and inspires the people who make it all possible.

Article Details

Feature with:           Adam Grant, Thought Leader

Written by Team Hyer

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