The Most Overlooked Factor That Shapes Your Behavior at Work

Aga Bajer
6 min readFeb 18, 2020

There is a reason why Google spent months figuring out the best way to pave the paths on their campus and why there’s only one set of doors leading to the main Zappos building.

It’s the same reason why the East African Maasai tribe builds huts that are only 1,5 meter high and so that it’s impossible to stand upright while you are inside.

The intention is to get people into the common spaces where they can randomly collide, leading to chance encounters that strengthen the community and help it thrive.

Google, Zappos, and the Maasai tribe know that we get few chances to shape our environment and then, it’s our environment that shapes us — every single day.

Sadly, the intentional design of our physical and virtual spaces is rare and largely overlooked.

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”

The first thing you’ll notice in a Maasai village in Kenya or Tanzania is that almost all activities take place outdoors. Children play in the dirt. Women prepare meals, tend to their homes, or make jewelry. Personal grooming is not off-limits, either. It seems that whatever business people attend to, it happens in the open, communal spaces.

The Maasai have homes but they are a far cry from what people in the West would call a house. Their huts are loaf-shaped, barely 1,5 meter tall and made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung, and cow’s urine.

When I first saw an Inkajijik (house in Maa) on the inside, I instantly understood why the Masai don’t spend much time in it. The hut was dark, full of smoke, and really tiny. In the Maasai culture, a hut is merely a place to sleep or to find shelter from the rain. It’s certainly not a place to live. The life Maasai lead is communal and it’s meant to be experienced with the wider clan, in the open. The tribe’s age-long building tradition facilitates this way of living. The Maasai shaped their environment in such a way…

--

--

Aga Bajer

I write about how to unlock the power of your company culture. Founder of CultureBrained™️+ The CultureLab Podcast Host — agabajer.com/podcast