Oct 30, 2018

Our Culture Code: guidelines for how we work

To create a work environment where everyone will thrive the first thing we created when starting Graphiq was a shared set of guidelines for how we work.
Jakob Palmers
Co-Founder & CEO

At the moment, I am sitting on an airplane headed towards Copenhagen. I am travelling with Victoria (and maybe Anniken, did she make the flight?) who are representing 657, the Norwegian partner of Creative Business Cup.

Creative Business Cup Cup is an international competition for the most creative startups within the creative industry. And we are representing Norway in the global finals this week. It’s a perfect place to be as we are on a mission to create a new era for great design.

Anyhow, one of the things I have put on my schedule is to write up a blog post about our culture code. We recently revised it, adding two new sentences and changing the wording around a bit. Why you may ask? Because we believe that you not only need to improve your product, but also your company.

Numerous times we have improved our company in various ways. Everything from changing office space to how we work. From the very beginning, we have gone from being a super simple post-it managed company to a fully digital company. See the images below.

Post-its, brown paper, inspirational and plants. Exactly how we started out.

Screenshot of a couple of digital tools that make up Graphiq
‍Screenshot of a couple of digital tools that make up Graphiq


When Erik and I first started the company in Trondheim back in September 2015 one of the first things we did was to go on a full-day hike up in the mountains. For us, inspiration rarely happens in front of the computer, which is why we go other places to get inspired. We believe the same should be done with our whole team as well so we decided to take a company retreat to Lisbon, Portugal recently.

Erik Sandsmark absorbing the Norwegian forest
‍Erik Sandsmark absorbing the Norwegian forest


While embracing the dense woods with spruce trees limiting the natural heat from the sun rays and breathing humid air we were able to lay out a new foundation for Graphiq. I want to present our newly revised version of Our Culture Code. But remember, at Graphiq nothing is set in stone so we will continue to evolve Our Culture Code.

The foundation of Graphiq being laid at Skistua outside Trondheim

This is Our Culture Code

– We are gønners

– We are empathy driven

– We pick up the phone

– We know when to 80/20

– We let a surfer finish her wave

– We are our users’ best friend

– We take a challenge when we see it 

– We contribute to our community

– We celebrate success

– We learn from our failures

– We encourage feedback

– We look sharp every day

– We are honest with each other

– We always assume positive intent

– We do stuff that makes us happy

We are gønners

When we started Graphiq we were ready to take action, not analyze. No more analysis paralysis. Erik also picked up a saying while he was in Boston: “fire, fire, aim”. Meaning that if you shoot in different directions and then aim, you’ll eventually hit the target. You’ll never know if it hits if you don’t dare to shoot. So we realized we knew we wanted to make the world look better by connecting companies with freelance designers, but we were not sure how. One of our friends, Sondre Pedersen, used to say (and still does) “gønna på!”. It’s a west-coast Norwegian phrase, and I am not sure what the best translation is, but it sort of translates to, “go on, keep moving, work harder, go go go.” And that’s what we really wanted to do when starting Graphiq. Just get going and continue to work and make Graphiq a successful company.

We are empathy driven

We have always wanted to build a diverse company, but diversity can also be a challenge. So how does one build a diverse company that works together in harmony? We believe that if all the people you work with are empathy driven and share the same values you’ll succeed. With this shared value, gender, age, nationality, and background will not matter. You’ll enjoy working together and be able to create success.

We pick up the phone

The first thing we learned while studying at NTNU School of Entrepreneurship was to pick up the phone. The first fall we did six feasibility studies, calling over 100 people diving into new markets. Being able to pick up the phone, call customers, designers, partners, media, colleagues and your grandmother is really important. We see a tendency where people forget this, but one needs to realize that a quick phone call instead of 10 e-mails back and forth sometimes is the quickest way to reach your goal.

We know when to 80/20

There are hundreds of tasks that need to be completed on a constant basis. Some are more important than others. Understanding that you’ll complete 80% of the task in 20% of the time is key. The last 20% typically takes 80% of the time. Very often 80% is good enough, but in some situations 100% is what it takes. Understanding this is a key cog in the wheel of success.

We let a surfer finish her wave

A metaphor we created while on a surf trip to Morocco, which means letting people work when they are on a roll. Otherwise known as the “hot hand”. With new digital tools with endless notifications and in an open-desk environment distractions can be everywhere. When a surfer first catches a wave, you should get out of the way. That’s how we feel about work as well. If you’re in the zone, pushing through multiple tasks or working on the new UI for the client application, we will leave you alone - until you fall of the wave.

We are our users’ best friend

This used to only say “friends”, but we are not friends. We want to be “best friends”. We invite designers and clients to hang out with us, come to the office, eat lunch and join our company workouts. A friend you know well, but a best friend is someone you know everything about. We want to help all our users as best as possible. That’s why we’ll do our best to get to know you.

We take a challenge when we see it

Challenges are the things that improve a person. If you never take a challenge, you’ll never develop. We’ll take a challenge when we see it. This could be a presentation on a stage for 10, 000 people or just run a 30k race in the woods (which, Frede, Brady and I recently did - bragging rights).

We contribute to our community

Since we founded Graphiq, multiple people have helped us on the way. These are people paying it forward after succeeding themselves. They have all shared their expertise for free, helping us build Graphiq. We plan to do the same by sharing our experiences with fellow entrepreneurs and creators who are trying to build the future.

We celebrate success

Starting a company is one of the craziest roller coasters you’ll ever board. The ups feel like a strong g-force giving you a rush, and the downs are the feeling you get after a really hard night of partying in Germany (I have heard). That’s why it’s really important to celebrate big and small victories along the way.

Graphiq summer part in Oslo august 2017
Graphiq Summer Party, celebrating, well... summer!

We learn from our failures

I have also mentioned that we are gønners. And make no mistake, we’ll fail sometimes. But that’s no problem as long as we learn from it. Combining gønners, with the 80/20 rule and the ability to learn when we make mistakes, we are able to maintain a high pace, move fast and break things (from time to time). It’s okay to make a mistake once, maybe twice, but not three times in a row.

We encourage feedback

Without feedback from users, colleagues and the people around us we’ll never know what works and what doesn’t. That’s why we encourage feedback from everyone around us to improve our service and ourselves as people.

We look sharp every day

We don’t have a Barney Stinson Suit-up-theme at work. It’s more about the metaphor of having a sharp mind ready for work. We have a free work policy without anyone tracking when you show up and leave. Therefore, when you’re at work, we expect that your mind is ready and that you have had a good night sleep or whatever you need to perform at your best. Let’s get shit done and be positive contributors to the working environment.

We are honest with each other

Being honest is key. If you dislike another colleague’s decision, stand up for yourself and be honest about it. If you haven’t completed a task, be honest and don’t blame someone else. If something sad happened in your life, feel free to share, although you are not obligated to. We want to create a warm working environment where people are included. A place where you feel trust and there is room to talk about the difficult sides of life.

We always assume positive intent

Erik recently participated in a panel debate about The Future of Work at the Cutting Edge festival.Other among him were the likes of Justin Gallagher from Trello. Justin mentioned the key to digital communication is assuming positive intent. At Trello, they always assume positive intent. When using digital tools for communication this is very important. Things can seem quite harsh or direct, but that’s rarely the intent.

We do stuff that makes us happy

We have created Graphiq not only because it’s a great and exciting challenge, but to become happy. That’s why it’s important to do stuff from time to time that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to work, but just simply makes you happy. An example is when Marian and Erik created RI* or when we created the worst quality video in 30 minutes during the 500 Startups accelerator.

Believe you can add to our culture code?

So now you have it, this is our culture code, a set of guidelines for how we work. If you want to take part in the culture code or believe you have something to add, you can see our open positions here on our career page.

Graphiq team trip to Lisbon in November 2017.jpg_700x450
Graphiq exploring the streets of Alfama, the old town in Lisbon

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