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Interview with a Culture Architect

These are excerpts from an email interview with a human resource and organisational development leader.

Photo of Isabel Vadivu Govind
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This was one question I posed to the Interviewee, based on the brief given about this challenge: 

One reason behind low levels of gratitude in the workplace has been found to be that when we tell a colleague how we have been impacted positively by them, feelings of vulnerability and insecurity may surface. In competitive environments, people may be hesitant to share credit for their work, afraid that it will undermine their status/advancement opportunities. How could this obstacle be addressed? What other obstacles do you see to cultivating a culture of gratitude and what solutions do you have? 

Three Key Insights from Interviewee

1.  We have been taught that our success is ours alone and we need to protect that at all cost. However Google has found that shared credit/appreciation for good work done actually helps the team to be stronger, more cohesive and in turn more innovative and productive. When we have one less 'survival' thing to be concern of, we naturally divert our mental resources to creativity and innovation (both of which need a nurturing environment to flourish). We need to celebrate team success more as well as the team leader who helped the team move along the path to success.

2. Another thing I would add is getting others to vote how this team has helped other teams to succeed as well. How has one team shared resources or lent ideas to others when they see others in need and/or the idea/thing they are working on would benefit someone else better instead?

3. Barry Oshry's work on systems in organisations needs to be downloaded to everyone. When we can see where we are in the system and how we are impacted as well as how others are impacted, we will tend to be more compassionate towards our leaders and vice versa. People in systems do crazy things to one another they themselves do not even realise. Move people around the system so that they see things with a different lens.

Another question I posed to her was on what content would be vital for a toolkit for executives, HR/OD professionals on creating a culture of gratitude. 

Here are some of her insights:

1. Create a 40-day gratitude plan to enable habit formation, starting with small practices.  

2. Use a Head (Why gratitude is important), Heart (exercises on gratitude, mindfulness etc), Body (somatic experience of gratitude) Framework for Promoting Gratitude. 

In terms of context, this interviewee was speaking to workplaces in general. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

This is an inspiring video of one man who changes society with his words of appreciation. He affirms people within the organisation he works at (boss/security personnel) as well as customers and others. It makes us reflect on - the power of one person (with no leadership title) to make a difference - the contagious power of appreciation - how hungry people are for validation - why some people may be unmoved by appreciative gestures (they may have their own pain) - how important it is to give appreciation just for the sake of it and not expect anything in return

Tell us about yourself

I do leadership and staff development to enable high performance through human flourishing at work. I run Joy Works (, a business with a social mission to make workplaces more life-affirming and inspiring spaces where people do exceptional work and become the best version of themselves.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Isabel Vadivu Govind 

Excited to have someone with your background and expertise in leadership development joining this Challenge! I'm intrigued to know more about the interview you conducted, and love the Key Insights you highlighted. Can you share more about that interview process and context for the type of work environment this interviewee was speaking to?

To update your post, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to your Full Description field. Then click Save after you're done updating!

Also, is there any chance you could find an image to go along with your post? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Isabel Vadivu Govind

Thank you, Lauren, to your team for facilitating this important challenge and for your questions and guidance. I asked the questions stated in the piece via email and she responded via email too. She was speaking to workplaces in general. I've added these to my piece now, thank you. As for image, I uploaded one showing figures (with hearts) standing in a circle to represent a community of people at work, connected by hearts of gratitude. Can it be seen?