How to collect the stories that make your culture come alive – Colin Browne

Stories are at the core of any organisation’s culture, but getting to them is usually something that companies do badly. It’s not that the will isn’t there, but that there is no innovative mechanism for organising them in a structured way. A former CEO of Nintendo had an idea however, which is too good not to consider …

When Nintendo President Satoru Iwata passed away during 2015, he left behind him a company that had been left in the dust by its competitors for a time, but had risen to challenge them, in part, by understanding itself in a way that very few companies do.

In recent weeks, CULTURESHOT has taken a cautionary look at the rise of the professional manager, but if any executive in modern times has been the antithesis of that, Iwata might be it.

Iwata’s background in software engineering gave him an unusual affinity with the people who make the games for which the company is famed and it was that, one assumes, which prompted him some years ago to launch his Iwata Asks series on the company’s website, in which he would personally interview the people who brought Nintendo’s products to life: the designers, coders and project leaders.

In doing so, Iwata did what all company leaders should. He systematically captured the stories that make Nintendo great, and published them for the world to read. Where most companies struggle to describe what they are, what they stand for and how they got to where they did, Iwata put himself boldly into the interviewer’s seat and brought the whole place alive.

They’re fascinating to read if you consider that hierarchical norms in Japan call for politeness and respect. The joking and ribbing that went back and forth is evidence that Iwata was a trusted boss viewed with warmth by his people.

Company leaders should take a page from his book. Capturing your stories is critical to your success. Your own Iwata Asks is a bold step forward, but one that cannot leave any doubt about how serious you are about culture.

Scroll Up