Company Culture Decks Are So 2012: Enter the Culture MOOC

Cushard Confidential MOOC Culture Deck

There has been a lot of recent activity surrounding the importance of company culture and its link to company success. Netflix caused a notable stir with their culture deck called, "Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility," which Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg described as possibly "the most important document ever to come out of the valley." Hubspot made a similar splash with their Culture Code presentation about what makes Hubspot tick. And don't forget about Zappos and its culture focus. The Netflix and Hubspot presentations are slick and may well be the secret to these two very successful companies.

The problem is that these presentations follow a one-to-many distribution model and much can be lost in translation. It turns out there is a potential solution to this problem. The Massive Open On-Line Course (MOOC) Let's look at three principles of MOOCs to guide how an executive team could teach it's culture to all employees.

Massive, Open, and Asynchronous

MOOCs allow for a many-to-many approach to teaching culture, and for executive teams to participation directly with all employees who choose to participate. Because a MOOC is massive and open, companies can open culture discussions to employees all over the world and even to prospective employees who are currently in the recruiting process. What better way to educate prospective employees about your culture than to invite them to participate in the company culture MOOC?

The asynchronous nature of a MOOC allows for executive-level participation because it remove the necessity for busy executives to be available in person at a certain time. Senior leaders can participated in off hours, between meetings, on airplanes, or where ever else they have a few free minutes.

Structured and Facilitated

Following the model of a typical MOOC offered by Coursera executive team members can facilitate discussions on specific culture topics and truly engage people in conversations about the company culture and what it means to live and act on the culture. This is an excellent way to feel the pulse of an organization and to engage in on-going conversations on specific topics related to its culture. This kind of insight does not come out of employee surveys.


During each weekly unit of a MOOC, participants are assigned to take action on culture values and report back to the group on their results. "Last week, I tried to put the customer first, but my manager reprimanded me for giving away the store." Think about how valuable it would be to share that result in a facilitated discussion with peers, managers, and an executive-level facilitator. People will really know how the company wants people to treat customers after that discussion. The silver bullet of culture success is to get a large group of people to guide their actions using the principles laid out in the company culture.

What makes MOOCs compelling for an executive team is two-fold. First, a MOOC provides an executive team a persistent opportunity to get their message across about culture. Second, it allows a many-to-many model of engaging employees on an important topic. I'd venture to say that for any company touting teamwork and collaboration as a part of their culture, they should already be using MOOCs as a means for teaching culture.

This blog originally appeared on the humancapitalist blog.