Sunday, April 21, 2013

In the Zone at Interzone: healthy culture, happy culture

Touch, Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell- these are the means by which we measure and categorize our experiences. Our knowledge of the world depends on these modes of perception. From these interactions with sensory experiences, we draw conclusions. We make judgments. We form opinions. Directly these inferences are drawn from the messages we receive through sensory input.  Indirectly they are the result of the feelings we attribute to different outcomes of sensory interaction. We are constantly drawing conclusions based on how we ‘feel.’

How often have you heard of or used the term, ambiance? Does the phrase, “oh that restaurant has such a nice ambiance!” ring a bell? Ambiance is more than just a fancy word to describe the physical structure/atmosphere of an organization. Ambiance incorporates character and is defined by the ‘feelings’ gained through our experiences with sensory input.  How do you feel when you walk into a room? What emotions do you attribute to the experience?

These emotions are shaped by culture. When you walk into a restaurant you don’t automatically experience it all at once. Sure the physical layout plays a significant role in shaping your attitude towards the location. But, you most likely aren’t going to make a decision regarding a second visit without first taking the time to fully experience. You take in the atmosphere in (décor, furniture, attire)- what kind of environment does it promote? You look at the menu, you taste the food, and you interact with the staff; Everything contributes to emotions conveyed by the overall experience. After enjoying your meal, you might feel more apt to either recommend or oppose this restaurant in the future.  Ambiance is shaped by both physical interaction and emotional experience.

When an organization is able to convey emotion and make a connection with its customers that goes beyond physical impressions it becomes more than just a business.  Creating an ambiance that draws people in and creating an atmosphere that keeps customers coming back is a challenging task to assume, but when accomplished it works in everyone’s favor.

“Keeping Corvallis wired since 1998.” That is the slogan of Interzone Café- the attitude it strives to embody and provide. Keeping it`s customers wired, literally, through complementary Internet access, wireless hookups, and space ideal for getting in the zone and hitting the books.  Keeping customers wired with its unique specialty drink menu (honey cardamom latte, anyone?!) and a selection of over TEN different coffee roasts daily (freshly brewed and pressed at your request). Keeping customers wired through the unique energy and quirky atmosphere it provides to all who enter this seemingly commonplace corner coffee shop.

The concept of Holism seems to be present in this place. Holism in that, standing alone the mustard yellow wall, purple door trims, mismatched chairs, cracked wood furniture, and occasional potted plants do little to attract attention. But, when thrown together, they work in unison to create an eclectic ambiance consistent throughout the entirety of the organization. All layers of the Interzone organization seem to embrace this uniquely spunky, free-spirited, and au naturel attitude that is a welcome change from the more commonplace coffee houses in Corvallis.

According to Schein`s Onion Model, organizational culture is governed by three main levels that create an environment equipped to generate success. These levels are present in the organizational structure at Interzone Café. The Artifacts represent the most observable aspects of the culture at Interzone. This includes the multicolored walls, casual employee dress, Bohemian décor, compost bins, and organic/vegan/veggie menu options. The second level is Values.  The free-spirited welcoming attitudes of employees, healthful focus, environmental consciousness, and artistic mood all contribute to the core values held by the staff and company as a whole.  Finally, Assumptions represent the innermost core of the Interzone organization. These are the roots; such as happiness, energy, and health, that drive the values embodied by the overall experience. Individually these aspects hold little significance but as a whole they create the culture at Interzone- one that draws people in and keeps them coming back for more.