Somewhat mysteriously, conventions take hold and permeate a group – a set of beliefs, a way of doing things, a value system that is passed down from generation to generation. Schools, towns, companies – any collection of people can create a culture.
Mike told us about the culture at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, a self-proclaimed nerd school. On this campus, professors were treated like rock stars and given a standing ovation at the end of the term. A “good time” was going to office hours in the evenings, not for help, but just to sneak in a few minutes in the presence of said rock stars. Being cool meant being smart – the nerdier the better. I doubt anyone wrote down these rules in an official proclamation, but they were entrenched in the culture of the campus and passed down from one class to the next.
Petaluma has its own culture. We experienced the same scenario we’ve heard reported by others. On our early visits, we’d walk down the street and be greeted by strangers. Friendly “hellos” accompanied by eye contact, or even extended chit-chat on the sidewalk, were in stark contrast to the relative anonymity we experienced on the streets of San Francisco. As my editor, Linda, noted, “When I arrived in Petaluma in January, I absolutely could not believe that people started conversations with me on the street, and ended by saying, ‘I’m glad you moved here.'” We moved here, in part, because we enjoyed this connection. Now we’re the ones welcoming new-comers with a friendly smile, and the tradition continues!
WORK also has a culture. It wasn’t there when we opened the doors two years ago. We hoped WORK would grow into an open, welcoming, idea-generating atmosphere, but that’s not something that happens on Day One. Instead, we took steps to cultivate the community. Thought-inspiring coffee socials, personal introductions, friendly and helpful reception all set the course in the right direction. After enough time, it became self-perpetuating and has now exceeded our expectations. Thanks to a fantastic group of coWORKers, we have an office culture that’s enriching our lives, one workday at a time.
Why we humans so naturally build unique cultures is too large a topic for this tiny blog, but nevertheless, I’m thankful for the greatness that can come from its creation.
Written and photographed by Natasha Juliana. (Rivertown Revival culture in action!) Edited by Linda Jay.
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