A cultural model

Caroline Taylor’s model of culture from Walking the Talkprovides clarity about the connection between values and culture and shows how we can infuse values through the concrete behaviours, symbols and systems to create a powerful culture. This model gives us a way to unpack the link between values and culture in a pragmatic way.

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So for example, in a retail store if a strong value is customer service we might observe behaviours of attentiveness to customers rather than apparent disdain. The symbols on display may be that supervisory staff are visible in observing customer flows through checkouts and adding staff. Systems support the customer experience, for example Zappos (the online shoe retailer) value their phone contact as their primary contact with the customer, so the system builds in the expectation that contact staff can spend as much time on the phone as is needed to resolve customer’s concerns.

Values on display in the industrial food system can be revealed with this model. Here are a few headlines and links to articles that reveal the worst examples.

The value that distills from these stories is of greed and pursuit of profit unbridled by any concerns for human well-being. So by contrast, a value that underpins sustainable food systems is the production of food to nourish and sustain people and planet.

Sustainable food system behaviours, symbols and systems

We can recognise how the value, the production of food to nourish and sustain people and planet is present and manifest by observing how any food system organisation operates.

Behaviours might include:

  • collaboration over competition
  • fair trading practices rather than predatory practices
  • preparing minimally processed foods.

Symbols might include:

  • transparent business practices
  • low impact operations – e.g. using electric vehicles
  • strong community engagement.

Systems might include:

  • inclusive, collaborative communication systems
  • co-operative or social enterprise business models
  • local value chains.

Only one value is considered here – are there others that you would suggest. Please comment.


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