The List of Culture Gaming Lingo

Thing5-thematrixCulture engineering and design, culture implementation, culture hacking and culture gaming are relatively new ideas for people not associated with Organizational Development or academia. Even for classic OD folks and academics, some of these ideas are new.

This is a list of terms and words commonly used when doing and discussing culture work. The term culture gaming has its roots in a book called THE CULTURE GAME, a book heavily influenced by Tony Hsieh’s book DELIVERING HAPPINESS and Jane McGonigal’s book REALITY IS BROKEN. Culture design and culture hacking are terms derived primarily from software development.

And here is the rub: While software is part of our history, it is not who we are. Culture codes are not computer source codes. Culture hackers are not hacking software. People are not computers. People are not easily programmed. Here is an example: People-problems (“bugs”) are not detected and solved by tracing the cultural-code “call stack” in a code debugger using breakpoints.

Our tools and technology are social in nature.

Therefore: The software analogy is close, yet not very precise. And so we must, and we are,  developing our own language of culture gaming, culture design and culture hacking. Agile, for example, is an instance of a culture hack for software teams that actually worked. We are leveraging and moving ideas from agile software development, up and out of IT, from teams to tribes. The culture engineering conversation is generating a much bigger story, because is more widely applicable, an across many more domains, than agile software development practices ever were. The reality is that the agile software development movement pointed the way to something much bigger, namely: how to more broadly design organizational cultures, that are intentionally optimized on getting great results…beyond the code.

The Culture Engineering Lingo Lexicon

Each entry in the culture engineering lingo list has the following attributes:

  • Word, term, name or phrase
  • Definition
  • See-Also
  • Related Links

The terms listed here include terms and words, acronyms, phrases and some people-names. The entries are drawn from word and terms in common usage in emails, web pages, books and conferences such as CULTUREcon which is focused around culture engineering, culture design, iterative culture development, culture hacking, and related topics.



Agile Philly An agile community of practice in Philadelphia dedicated to raising the level of agility throughout Greater Philadelphia. Organizer of the first CULTUREcon event with Agile Boston CULTUREcon, Andre Dhondt,
aims the goals and objectives of a sociocracy circle sociocracy
Andre Dhondt An agile community leader in the Philly area responsible for organizing the first CULTUREcon event on 9/13/2012. An Agile coach. Agile Philly, CULTUREcon
appreciative inquiry a form of structured interaction between 2 or more people that includes discovery, dream, and design. The goal of appreciative inquiry is to bring out best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. grounded visioning
booted A state of being that results from opting-in, actively participating and successfully completing the Core Protocols BOOTCAMP from McCarthy Technologies core protocols, core commitments,
check in a structured interaction defined in the Core Protocols which includes committing to the core commitments and optionally disclosing information about your emotional state. core protocols, core commitments
check out In the core protocols, the explicit act of committing to the core commitments, inside a team, in the here and now, with the option to provide disclosure through structured interactions. core commitments, structure interactions
circles a feature of sociocracy where a group of peers with equal authority to make decisions assemble to pursue an aim. aim, sociocracy, consent
CLOU See Colleague Letter of Understanding self management, MorningStar
collaboration culture one of 4 core culture types described by Schneider in his book THE REENGINEERING ALTERNATIVE, where “control is highly valued.
colleague In the self-management style of organization utilized by MorningStar, an employee with no manager. MorningStar, colleague letter of understanding
colleague letter of undestanding In the self-management style of organization utilized by MorningStar, a document in a standard format that defines all aspects of an agreement between colleagues. MorningStar, colleague
competence culture one of 4 core culture types described by Schneider in his book THE REENGINEERING ALTERNATIVE, where competence is highly valued.
control culture one of 4 core culture types described by Schneider in his book THE REENGINEERING ALTERNATIVE, where control is highly valued.
core commitments A set of 11 opt-in commitments that are a prerequisite set of assumptions and agreements by a group of people who choose to execute the core protocols core protocols
core protocols A set of 11 structured interactions that are designed to help teams be great in defining, executing on and achieving goals core commitments
cultivation culture one of 4 core culture types described by Schneider in his book THE REENGINEERING ALTERNATIVE, where cultivation of personal an professional development is highly valued.
cultural DNA thecollective set of persistent assumptions that a culture carries and makes persistent over time. See also First Product and First Founders
culture blueprint A book and related tools written by Robert Richman
culture design the act of making choices in the configuration of a planned culture, usually with intent to optimize the culture to toward specific emergent properties, for example “teamwork”, “learning”, “engagement”, “magnificence”, etc
culture engineering the branch of social science and technology concerned with the design, building, and implementation of cultural codes and related supporting structures. Also: the work done by, or the occupation of, a cultural engineer.
culture game see: the culture game the culture game
culture hacking Culture hacking is cultural design does one or more of the following in notable, admirable ways:1/ Repsect/promotes/extends personal freedoms2/ Increases personal/group democratic power3/ Protects personal, psychological, and/or creative safety4/ Improves the world and/or sets it on a course of continuous improvement

5/ Subverts illlegitimate authority

6/ Is especially admirable for oneor more of its elegance, cleverness, beauty, efficacy, humor, and other design values of its implementation.
culture technology the tools, techniques and artifacts useful for culture design culture design
culturecon a conference focused on culture engineering, design, implementation, hacking, and related tools. culture design, AgilePhilly. Agile Boston
culturecon2012 The first ever CULTUREcon event held on 9/12/2012 and 9/14/2012 in Philadelphia and Boston respectively. Agile Philly, Agile Boston
Dave Logan Author of the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP tribal leadership
DH Book The book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh happiness framework
diad a two-person social structure triad
double linking a feature of sociocracy that requires two persons for the sending and receiving of communications across related groups, with intent to distribute power. sociocracy
engagement The act of being fully present core commitments
facilitation The act of of helping a group achieve its task, usually in a meeting. Facilitation may be formal or informal.
First Founders In an enterprise created for commerce, the people who were the founders and first leaders of the enterprise. First Founders imprint cultural DNA cultural DNA
First Product In an enterprise created for commerce, the first product or service that is offered to paying customers by that enterprise. First Products imprint cultural DNA cultural DNA
gaming framework The 4-part definition of a game as described by Jane McGonigal in her book, REALITY IS BROKEN. All games have the following in common: a goal, a set of rules, a way to receive feedback on progress, and opt-in participation. the culture game, gaming happiness, opting in
gaming happiness The term used in THE CULTURE GAME book to describe how to generate more engagement, learning and fun in organizations game framework, happiness framework
hacking the act of attempting to solve a problem or improve something useful, usually software and related tools, with the aim to share the solution with others with intent to solve higher-order problems Eric Raymond, How to Become a Hacker
happiness framework A 4-part description of what makes people happy as escribed by Tony Hsieh in the Appendix (pg 233) of the book DELIVERING HAPPINESS. Includes senses of control, progress, belonging, and higher purpose.
headspace A term used to describe the individual container for shared attitudes and beliefs on a team, as described by Jim and Michele McCarthy in their book SOFTWARE FOR YOUR HEAD
How To Become A Hacker An essay by Eric S. Raymond describing ethos and norms of the community of software developers who delight in the solving difficult problems exactly one time. The esssay is said to resonate with many who call themselves culture hackers. open source, culture hacking
Jane the Baptist A term of endearment referring to Jane McGonigal, author of REALITY IS BROKEN. The term was coined by Daniel Mezick, author of THE CULTURE GAME the culture game, Daniel Mezick
Jay Forrester The pioneer of culture engineering, the inventor of both core memory (in the 1940’s) and systems dynamic modeling (in the late 1950’s). The first Professor Emeritus of the Sloan School of Management at MIT.
Jeff Sutherland Original co-formulator of Scrum with Ken Schwaber. A tribal elder of the agile software movement. scrum, Ken Schwaber, ,
Ken Schwaber Original co-formulator of Scrum with Jeff Sutherland. A tribal elder of the agile software movement. scrum, Jeff Sutherland
learning organization a term popularized by Peter Senge and developed by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon, describing a group of people who  manifest rapid learning and adaptation to change, as a group. tribal learning
microstrategy A specific action plan, usually executed in a triad, based on Assets, Outcomes and Actions, as described in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP. tribal leadership,,
mindshare that portion of a person’s available  attention devoted to your message. (Culture hacking is mostly an exercise in gaining mindshare from culture participants.)
MVP The minimal set of features in a product that can test the fundamental business hypothesis of that product. From the book LEAN STARTUP by Eric Ries (pg94) pivot
narrative see storytelling storytelling
nonviolent communication a set of interaction guidelines and related, supporting thinking habits that can result in greatly improved communication between individuals and groups. structured interactions
OD Short for organizational development organizational development
open source software Software whose license conveys specific rights in return for fulfilling certain obligations, including stipulations that the program must include source code, must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form, the license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale, and other stipulations. The official Open Source definition can be found at the Open Source Software Foundation web site. Eric Raymond, hacking, ,
open space technology a simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people, and a powerful way to lead any kind of organization, in everyday practice and extraordinary change. Documented by Harrison Owen. Harrison Owen
opting in
organizational development a deliberately planned effort to increase an organization’s relevance and viability. A form of cultural engineering and design. May include various forms of culture hacking culture engineering, culture design, culture hacking
organizational memory the collective memory of a group of people organized around a task such as a team, department, division or business enterprise.
pivot a structured course correction, designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth. From the book LEAN STARTUP by Eric Ries (pg 149) MVP
prescription the act of telling someone what they “should” do. The opposite of invitation. opting in
scrum A pre-fabricated social system design for teams, optimized on delivering working software in 30 days or less. An essential of the agile software development movement. Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber
self management A technique of business management where the act of managing is embodied in each individual in the group, rather than a single person in a single role. Popularized by MorningStar and the Self Management Institute MorningStar, Self Management Institute
sociocracy a social structure optimized on engagement of groups of up to 2000 people. Sociocracy features circles, double linking and consent. sociocracy, double linking
Stage 1 As defined in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, a cultural stage where all the leaders and most of the participants are telling themselves and others a narrative the conveys the meme “Life is Great” tribal leadership
Stage 2 As defined in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, a cultural stage where all the leaders and most of the participants are telling themselves and others a narrative the conveys the meme “Life is Great” tribal leadership
Stage 3 As defined in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, a cultural stage where all the leaders and most of the participants are telling themselves and others a narrative the conveys the meme “Life is Great” tribal leadership
Stage 4 As defined in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, a cultural stage where all the leaders and most of the participants are telling themselves and others a narrative the conveys the meme “Life is Great” tribal leadership
Stage 5 As defined in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, a cultural stage where all the leaders and most of the participants are telling themselves and others a narrative the conveys the meme “Life is Great” tribal leadership
storytelling The structured conveying of events in words, images and sounds. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of cultural definition and ongoing reinforcement of cultural values. Storytelling is a major leverage point for culture hacking. culture hacking
structured interactions Structured communication behaviors between two or more people that is previously designed and agreed upon by and between the people participating. Popularized in the book THE CULTURE GAME in the chapter [Structure Your Interactions]. Structured interactions include use of core protocols, Subject-Verb-Object present-tense, nonviolent communication, and other culture technologies. culture technology, core protocols, the culture game
systems dynamics A method with related tools for modeling flows of various substances in a social system. Invented by Jay Forrester. social substance, Jay Forrester
the culture game A book written by DanielMezick that describes sixteen learning practices derives from Agile and a means to socialize them throughout an organization tribal learning, triads, game framework, happiness framework, gaming happiness
TL1 Acronym for Tribal Leadership Stage 1 tribal leadership
TL2 Acronym for Tribal Leadership Stage 2 Stage 1
TL3 Acronym for Tribal Leadership Stage 3 Stage 2
TL4 Acronym for Tribal Leadership Stage 4 Stage 3
TL5 Acronym for Tribal Leadership Stage 4 Stage 4
triad A 3-person social structure, where 3 people aligned on values pursue a specific outcome by acting together in a 90-day window of time. In triads, each person in the group takes responsibility for maintaining the quality of the connection between the other two participants. From the book, TRIBAL LEADERSHIP by Dave Logan tribal leadership, Dave Logan
tribal leadership A book written by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright. triads, Stage 5, microstrategy
tribal learning A set of patterns and practices for teams, distilled from agile software development, which can be applied by any team who has intent to escalate levels of team learning. Described in the book THE CULTURE GAME by Daniel Mezick. structured interactions, the culture game
tribe a group of about 20 to 150 people, where each person in the group holds some shared values. Described in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP. tribal leadership, tribal learning
WorldBlu The organization responsible for promoting the 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy.