Our Journey Toward a Kind Open Adaptive Network (KOAN)

Our Journey Toward a Kind Open Adaptive Network (KOAN)

Feb 16, 2022

By: Christi Granstaff
With recognition and appreciation for thought partnership from Dianne Dickerson and Moira Perez


Our team and our organization have been on an evolutionary cultural journey these last four years – one that has shifted and changed us in important ways. We are taking time to reflect on our learnings as we continue this journey into the next phase.


Four years ago, the team at Integrated Work embarked on an intentional journey to create a new way of working that honors and embraces the best of who we are collectively and individually. This work reflects our commitment to building a more inclusive environment where human-first principles, transparency, and curiosity fuel our ability to amplify our impact, together. We set out to create the conditions for a truly diverse team by increasing transparency and stretching into new and innovative products and services that align with our ideals. This internal work also supports us to bring new perspectives to our clients and their cultural work.

Of course, it is critical for this kind of work to be supported at the top of the organization. Our brave, bold, CEO, Jennifer Simpson, has led the way and made space for many of us to share leadership. She sets the organizational tone, provides thought leadership, spotlights our successes along the way, and supports compassionate course correction when needed.

Our evolution has occurred in three key domains:

  • Structural: the way we are organized and what we offer in the world.
  • Cultural: how we build and shape who we are together.
  • Members: who has been on this journey and the roles each member plays.

Structural – Organization and Offerings

While most organizations need some degree of hierarchy to function, we have built a unique structure – a Kind Open Adaptive Network (KOAN) – that emphasizes the strengths of individuals, creates opportunities for leadership at all levels of the organization, and offers an organic system of accountability.

The KOAN structure gives people room to grow, celebrates working together, and fosters agility in dynamic times. Team members hold several different roles for the purpose of coordinating action in service of shared organizational purpose.

Cultural – Shaping

Our “Human First” ideal is central to our culture. Getting to know one another, strengthening relationships, and demonstrating care and support are central to this journey. We do this in big and small ways, such as:

  • Articulating our ideals together
  • Hosting thought-provoking book club discussions
  • Nurturing the notion of trying new things and iterating – it’s ok not to be perfect
  • Dreaming big
  • Infusing fun
  • Painting a picture of what could be
  • Providing developmental opportunities for all team members
  • Trying out new systems & structures – keeping what fits, discarding what doesn’t, and making them our own

Members – People and Roles

Having a flexible KOAN structure where people can take on a variety of roles over time allows us to notice gaps where we need to either add skills or roles. This has given us the ability to intentionally build a diverse team and get creative about how, when, and from where people work. Our overall goal is to truly allow our team members to integrate work in ways that support balance and well-being.

What We’ve Learned So Far…

We’ve learned that organizational culture change requires dedication, vision, and resources.

Our experience suggests that change is more successful if you pace it well, are willing to have timely and sometimes hard conversations, and are mindful of how people are experiencing the change. Input and inclusion around any needed adjustments help us continue to build buy-in and strengthen engagement.

Factors that support us include:

  • An approach that embraces continuous learning and development
  • Planning, along with a willingness to hear feedback to inform and alter the plan
  • Intentional communication that provides sufficient context for the whole team
  • Hold the “how” of work lightly to unleash creativity and energy

We hope these reflections are valuable to you as you embark on your own cultural journey, and we encourage you to take time to reflect on what you learn along the way.