Event Report: SXSW – Culture in High-Performance organisations

If you ask a Millennial, ”what makes you happy in life?”, “Becoming rich and famous” is often the answer. And that is actually the result of how we raise our kids. An 80-year study by Harvard University, one of the longest studies ever done in history, shows what really makes us happy in life:

  • Great relationships – a good match with personality
  • Secure relationships – one that withstands an argument

In Austin, at SXSW we talked about Culture in High-Performance organisations, and here’s a recap!

SXSW – Austin, Texas (March 10, 2018)

On a wonderful sunny day, during South by Southwest, I had the pleasure to moderate an interview between Gerrit Brouwer (founder and CEO Appical) with Joost van Bellen (Artist, DJ, and writer). Joost, 52 years, a Dutch phenomenon, a famous DJ known from majestic and revolutionary clubs like “Roxy (Amsterdam)” and various cozy festivals, like “Valtifest” and “Meubelstukken”, has brought (electro)techno house music to the “normal” non-commercial public.

What makes him happy is the journey he followed with the people he likes, to become what he is today. Knowing his own personality well, staying forever young, being confident and realizing a maximum meaningful life as a result of his achievements, surrounded by a great secure community of people. Mistakes are there to learn and overcome, and some mistakes for example in Twitter can turn out in something really good! Joost his recommendation was, to never stick to Anxiety 1 out of 8 persons do, for example, don’t wait and see, start acting for the better. Keep investing in secure personal relationships, that will pay out in your happiness and a meaningful life.

It brings you wisdom, pleasure and it makes you proud.


At that same afternoon, I also interviewed some great leaders in Talent Development together with Gerrit (founder and CEO of Appical). These leaders were from companies like Southwest Airlines, Uber (Zenefit, Glassdoor), and Pepsico.

Talking about meaningful relationships (culture) in high-performance organizations, it seems hard work and requires anticipation.

Technology like Artificial Intelligence (Alexa/Siri kind of solutions) is a reality within HR and L&D these days. Automation is key and implementation of these technologies require involvement and support of the business. For that reason, HR and Talent Management development should be more strategic board level as culture and happy people can really differentiate your company these days.

This whole view starts with a good matching of mainly soft-skills with culture and, dear reader,  that is a joint responsibility. Security in relationships in a work environment is also a key aspect in life to invest in. Onboarding a new employee is definitely an important part of this. There is never a second chance for a good first impression. The better the new hire is guided, the more confident he/she will be and the more happy feeling is the result. Appical has proven within Pepsi, for example, that this is a major component in building a great culture, aside from the efficiency and value this brings for the people involved.

It is not a stand-alone process, the whole company is responsible for cultural optimization. Authentic involvement of the board and senior leaders on the work floor is crucial. Anticipation in process development when experiencing high-performance growth is also key, otherwise, you will lose your safe ground for people. Things will get hectic and people lose confidence. At companies as Uber, it is of major importance to continuously stimulate culture, understand the employee experience and work on the moments of through (the simple points in this process, you can make people happy and secure), provide a feeling of freedom and valuable relationships at every level.

The new HR and L&D is all about the employee experience and should have strategic focus in order to create competitive advantage.

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