What The Chinese Discovered About Semco

by Daphne van Beek

April 25, 2019

What does it mean when a company needs to be true to itself? Similar to individuals, companies also have personalities. This “personality” is known as the company culture. Company culture has been one of the most scrutinized aspects of corporate affairs in the recent past. Like an individual’s personality, a company’s culture is a living, evolving representation of the company. 

Work cultures are complex because they are actually made up of many different individual personalities interpreting a set of values or principles that the company wants to represent. The best company cultures are also the ones where employees feel like they can bring their best selves to work. In other words, a work environment where they feel committed engaged and know they will be rewarded with progress and acknowledgment.


Your Culture USP
Yet, just like peer pressure, companies feel a need to implement practices they observe in successful companies blindly, without understanding whether this may represent them accurately. The devil is in the details and so is workplace authenticity. It makes no sense to either remove unique aspects of your culture or to superficially borrow ideas from other work cultures just so that you fit into a certain mold.

It’s equally important to remember that work cultures are not made up by the perks or practices but rather through your employees bringing their best selves to work every single day. Building your company solely on someone else’s idea is definitely not the way. It’s wiser to divine what works for your company and your people and to stick to it – irrespective of how the outside world perceives it.


Boring, But Authentic
A Chinese TV channel once visited Semco to do a news feature about the company and its unique work culture. Yet, after spending an entire week on campus, the crew wasn’t able to film anything that you would expect in a news feature like this. The crew was literally camping at the office – hoping to catch the CEO sleeping on the table or some kind of magic happening.

But, Semco is an industrial business and they produce physical products. In other words, their type of work didn’t leave much room to fly around the place and have fun the way we imagine startups do. Fun, at Semco, is embraced in a more simplistic and routine approach, rather than in a showy experience.

The team came expecting to see flashy things like people swimming in a pool full of colorful balls or something – but it turned out to be quite boring – people were just going about their work and did nothing crazy enough to be filmed.


Engaged Is The New Cool
The whole magic of your organization is around the people who work there – and, it’s not defined just by the “cool” perks that you offer. If your people are working in an engaged manner and connect with each other in a meaningful way, rest assured the magic will happen. Real self-management happens in the small details of daily life in an organization, and that is predominantly affected by the values espoused by the company, the culture it builds ground-up and the way people engage with each other meaningfully.

This article is written by:

Daphne van Beek

Daphne van Beek

SSI Global | Marketing & Country Partners

Daphne has an extensive background in marketing and brand positioning. Over the last 10 years, she developed and successfully executed internal- and external marketing campaigns for companies including Microsoft, HP, Rabobank, and KPN. She strongly believes that work should and can be done differently. Within Semco Style Institute, it’s her main purpose to spread this mission on a global level. To grow the worldwide community, and to reshape the way work is done. Daphne takes care of the global brand positioning, and international expansion and she supports Country Partners with successful go-to-market strategies.


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