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Is Culture the Only Lasting Competitive Advantage?

Leaders are constantly looking for that one great product or service that will set their company apart from the competition, but the reality is that patents expire and your top performers today can easily become top performers for your competitors tomorrow. So what is it that truly makes your organisation unique? Why should potential employees come work for you?

Simon Riis-Hansen, Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Lego, discusses how company culture can be your best competitive advantage.

Culture is the tie that binds. It might be counterintuitive that something so intangible, something so difficult to articulate or grasp, is such a motivating force within today’s organisations. But it is.

It may seem like tech companies or internet/social media organisations have a better understanding of this than the more traditional employers, but that’s not necessarily true.

“You don’t interact with a company, you interact with a person and that person has a set of behaviours, a way of dealing with you that is unique to your organisation,” says Simon Riis-Hansen, Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Lego. “Culture is not wallpaper or a simple talking point, it is something you enact with consistency and consequence.”

Lego has a long history spanning more than 80 years, and culture truly is their competitive advantage.

“Ideally culture is something that develops organically. It becomes the scaling mechanism that allows your organisation to grow, yet maintain the values that are important to it,” says Riis-Hansen.

Too many organisations think of culture as a box to tick on their to-do list, and as a consequence, posters are plastered on company walls and memos are sent out. But for culture to be more than just this month’s corporate tagline, it needs to be applied in everyday interactions: everyone throughout the organisation must interact with one another in a manner that reflects the corporate values, which are the bedrock of your culture. It must be embedded in the recruitment strategies, highlighted in the onboarding processes, and then reinforced by senior management.

How will you know when your culture has become your competitive advantage?

Riis-Hansen says, “When employees no longer think about their careers, but instead focus on contribution, because your environment rewards that. It actually gives them energy and enthusiasm, and this will attract the right kind of talent.”

A Culture that Inspires

Most cultures were established during the organisation’s start-up days, when leadership presence was a part of the day-to-day operations. But as organisations grow, leadership takes a less hands-on approach, and this is when cultural inconsistencies can flourish and behaviours and attitudes contrary to corporate values can take hold.


Creating Competitive Culture

“Establishing culture is a journey. But I think when you’re authentic and real in your interactions, you reduce those barriers that can limit or hinder global success,” says Riis-Hansen. “When it’s embedded in the organisation and core processes, you’ll be able to retain top talent and your business will thrive because of it.”


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