A Social Experiment on Corporate Culture


One of the first things I did when I joined my family business was to clear my workplace. As I rotated through the different departments, I cleared all the old catalogues, previous employees’ discarded belongings, and other misplaced storage items.

One morning, as I was moving out a pile of junk, I noticed a very old table plant. I asked whose it was and nobody seemed to know. This plant was alive and well, so I changed my question to, “Who’s taking care of this?” A colleague, BT, said she had noticed the plant on her first day of work a few years ago and decided to just start watering it and caring for it.

That piqued my curiosity and I prodded further, “Why are you taking care of something that doesn’t belong to you?” 

“I saw it withering and just started watering it,” she replied.

I thought to myself, it wasn’t the job of this employee to water and care for this plant. Yet, when she saw something withering in front of her, she automatically started caring for it. These are the kinds of employees we want in our company. In the course of running a business, there will be many problems that aren’t necessarily assigned to any one employee. We want our employees to be mindful and engaged, to pick things up themselves and handle them without specifically being told to do so.

This encounter sparked an idea for a social experiment on corporate culture. What if one night, we could sneak a few plants into each department, and just leave them there without a word? We could categorise three different groups of employees:
  1. Those who highlight the issue and ask around where the plants came from.
    • These are responsible employees who don't let things happen under their noses without their noticing.
  2. Those who water the plants and naturally begin to care for them.
    • These are employees who don't ask questions and just take care of problems around them.
  3. Those who let the plants wither and die.
    • These are employees that have a “not my job” mindset.
If you have more than half your plants die, you might want to seriously consider revamping your corporate culture.

What do you think would happen if you implemented this social experiment in your workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments below!