If you’ve been following our twitter, you’ll have seen that Weirdly’s visiting the Big Apple. Riding subways and eating hot sandwiches – we’re learning about what makes business tick in this town. In between bites of bagel, a realisation hit me like a yellow cab: there’s a lot we could learn from the people in New York City about organizational culture.
It doesn’t take much time here to see that this isn’t a city at all. Rather than a big ol’ humanity stew, this is actually a collection of villages, filled with fiercely loyal residents, who both define and are defined by the places they live and work.
These neighbourhoods might have been split along racial and socio-economic lines traditionally, but that’s changing. The city is arranging itself by cultural value. Now you see well-heeled people choosing to live out in Brooklyn, even when they could afford swankier inner-city neighbourhoods, because it feels more like them. There are students cramming into shoe boxes or loitering around diners in the upper east side, because the vibe reflects who they are. Taylor Swift even shunned the traditional park-views for a loft in creative TriBeCa – she’s so edgy.
It’s part of what makes NYC such a remarkable place – walk a couple of blocks in either direction and you’ll meet another set of local loyalists, eager and proud to show off the features of their local patch. This is the sweet side of tribalism. You see it in the way people dress – it’s not just tourists who wear NYC tee-shirts or Brooklyn caps.
Fundamentally, this magical arrangement is because each neighbourhood stands for something, and that something attracts people who stand for that too. People find places where they belong – and those places in turn, belong to them. These people care about the neighbourhoods they choose to join. They mourn the removal (or addition) of graffiti, they create community-led initiatives – there’s a clear sense of pride that comes along with that feeling of belonging and ownership.
There’s a lot we, as business owners, can learn from the way that humanity has arranged itself here. Think of employees choosing to wear corporate clothes, proud of the company they represent and eager to contribute to a place where they feel they belong. This isn’t some kind of Office-Space “pieces of flair” cheese fest. This is something that actually happens when companies are filled with people with shared values.
That sense of shared values, of belonging is what makes NYC hum.
Cut off a piece of that sweet apple and feed it to your own business – we could all learn a few lessons about creating culture from this city.