Heroes, Story + Ritual

These deeply embedded pieces of our societal cloth are fundamentally human and trump PowerPoint values decks every time.

Cultures are built on stories and heroes. We use them to orient ourselves. The stories we tell — and our heroes and rituals — reflect the soul of an organization. This is where your company values are embedded.


Folklore is the fertile soil of inspiration. What stories do you tell new team members at onboarding? What stories are told at a company meeting?
Your vision should be core to these stories, as should your company’s higher purpose. It is these told and retold narratives that inspiration lives.


Who within your organization is celebrated as a hero? Who is honored and revered? Is it the takers or the givers? What behaviors are lauded? A hero’s characteristics represent the values that the people in your organization aspire to.


Which rituals does your organization make time for? What values do they reflect?
Simple embedded rituals like how lunch happens or how meetings are conducted can drastically shape a culture. Do your routines bring people together and place value on communication?

Before delving into metrics or the business at hand with his direct reports at weekly meeting, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner goes around the room and asks each person to share one personal victory and one professional achievement from the previous week. Otherwise, Weiner says, they have a tendency to devolve into a round robin of complaints. This ritual infuses these meetings with positive energy from the start.


What stories are told and retold in your organization?
Who are the heroes?
What are the rituals?
What do these stories, heroes, and rituals reflect?

Story, Hero and Ritual shape the human experience. We use them to create meaning and as an aspirational compass. Be awake to and purposeful about these tools and how they shape your culture.


For more great ideas on stories and heroes – look to the classic thinkings of Joseph Campbell. To start powerful new cultural rituals – read about Charles and Ray Eames’ design partnership or explore any of Pema Chodron’s work on fear and love (such as When Things Fall Apart).