Cultivating cosmic company culture




Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with passion… Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall.

Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb

Like big Bri, we believe great company culture evolves from a united vision and a shared set of values. What follows is a little bit about how we figured out ours.

Big shout out to the dude Kieran O’Neill at who popped by to run our values session.


While it’s tempting for management to write a list of values that they think will be best for the company and culture, we believe values should be discovered, not defined. Here’s an abridged version of the process we followed:

  1. Make sure everyone is involved — CEO? Check. Intern? Check. Everyone in between? Check.
  2. Get a tonne of sticky notes.
  3. Each person writes down what they believe in, both in and outside of work, as well as what they think the company should stand for.
  4. Go through the sticky notes to find common themes and combine them into business values.
  5. Measure these values against current and previous employees. Any values that all employees don’t score a 6 out of 10 or higher on, bin.
  6. Out of the remaining values, is there anything anyone disagrees with? Why? Does it need to be tweaked?
  7. Finally, measure each value against your current employees again to prioritise them. Your highest scoring 5 or 6 are the values that accurately represent your company.
  8. D.I.S.C.O!

What follows are the six values that work for us at NEVERBLAND. As we continue to grow, they’ll undoubtedly evolve. They are a framework within which to think right, act right and make stuff happen.

Open Collaboration

Everyone should feel comfortable asking questions; to learn more, to align better and to collaborate more effectively. Transparency breeds trust. We’re surrounded by experts, trust them.

We believe in the power of the open web. Do the research and share the knowledge from people who inspire us.

Living this means:

  • Being transparent in what you know, and don’t know
  • Giving someone the autonomy to trial and test their theories
  • Not being afraid to ask for input or help brainstorming from the wider team and community
  • Sharing knowledge and techniques

Beauty in Simplicity

Beautiful is simple. The details are important. Everything we create should be cared for, a reflection of our dedication, and should further promote our passion and creativity. From our office space to project work, we obsess until we reach diminishing returns. Great design makes a difference.

Living this means:

  • Simplicity comes first in design
  • Thinking about the user experience
  • Making things beautiful (but not just for the sake of it)

Insatiably Curious

To be at the forefront of the industry, looking to the future, discovering what’s next. Never satisfied with the status quo.

Living this means:

  • A commitment to learning about and incorporating the latest front and backend technologies and design trends
  • Staying up to date with tech and design blogs
  • Using new ideas and technologies in projects where possible/appropriate

Do It with Love

We ricochet off each other’s energy. We’re positive. We’re passionate about what we do. We care about our partners and users. We support each other like a family.

Living this means:

  • Striving to be the best version of yourself
  • Always bringing your A-game to the table
  • Focusing on the positives, and on finding solutions. We all have our down days but we’re here for each other to make sure we all have the bigger picture in mind
  • Treating everyone as a friend — see the No Asshole Rule.

Own the Why

By understanding why you’re doing something and how it contributes to the company’s goal, you will take ownership and become accountable. Owners ensure we meet a goal, then push it through.

Living this means:

  • Communicating clearly
  • Planning properly
  • All fighting for the same goals
  • Taking pride in our work

Think Fast, Ship Smart

Think: the fewest battles to win the war. The quickest and smartest way to get to the next milestone. Make decisions when they need to be made, not before. Do what is needed to move efficiently forward.

Living this means:

  • Always thinking MVP
  • Finding the simplest, quickest method to achieve maximum gain
  • Make shit happen now


Having a vision and a set of values is all well and good, but they will only impact the culture of a company if they are embraced by everyone and reflected in everything we do.

We’re all familiar with the media clichés of offices buying ping pong tables, enforcing ‘Summer Fridays’ and ‘Burrito Wednesdays’, in search of that elusive cultural glue that binds a team. While these perks can and do complement an existing culture, they won’t make one from scratch. It’s still the underlying values that do the hard work.

As Jason Fried, Co-Founder of Basecamp, succinctly writes:

You don’t create a culture. Culture happens. It’s the by-product of consistent behaviour. If you encourage people to share, and you give them the freedom to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust then trust will be built into your culture.

Finally, here are some of the ways we build our values into everyday working:

  • No one defined our values for us. We spent a lot of time discovering what they were, seeing how we could live them day to day, and ultimately, we all believe in them.
  • No complaining — if you see something that needs to be fixed, it’s your responsibility to fix it.
  • We have a flat company structure. No one has an office, everyone is accessible.
  • We’re transparent in recruiting new team members. Everyone is involved and entitled to an opinion.
  • It’s safe to fail. Failing is how we learn and improve. We’d rather establish a culture where people aren’t too scared to get things done than one in which nothing ever goes wrong.
  • We use the best processes, tools and services to maximise efficiency.
  • We ask forgiveness not permission. We’re all busy. Rather than get tied up in approval chains, where possible, just do it.

We are not merely a digital product studio, we are a unique culture as well.

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