How to design a ritual

Ingrain your values in your work.


This tutorial helps you create a ritual from start to finish.

Rituals help you to create work environments in alignment to your values. Check out this tutorial on culture to understand your values better.


Rituals are routines that carry meaning.

Groups of people use rituals to create benefits for the group that are subtle, collective and not necessarily immediate. Actions resulting in immediate individual benefits occurs naturally.

Rituals utilize shared meaning to incentivize actions that benefit the group more than the individual.

E.g. the burning of incense releases a strong odor that keeps mosquitos away and covers the smell of unwashed neighbors. In some religions its meaning is to literally cleanse while in others it carries the prayers to heaven to compensate for the individual costs of purchasing incense.

Routine: A sequence of actions carried out repeatedly.

Meaning: The shared understanding of the motivation and importance of a routine.

Benefits: Outcomes of the routine that provide value to the group in the long term.

Trigger: An event that initiates a ritual. Often these are moments of beginning, ending, struggle, or celebration.


Take a closer look at the following examples:

  • Post-game Cleanup @Samurai Blue japanese soccer team to ingrain sportsmanship.
  • Brave Penguin Awards @Google for the colleague who dared to try something new.
  • Red Pin Graduation Ceremony @d.School to remind that empathy is your gift.
  • Noogler Hats @Google to remind new employees of their humility.
  • 1 empty chair @Amazon representing the customer at every meeting.

How do they fit the framework from above?


Caveat: The design of rituals is limited by the collective nature of meaning. You cannot design meaning and without it a ritual will not reach adoption. Thus you can only hope to design rituals as a team for yourselves.

Step 1: Understand benefits

Begin your design process by understanding which outcomes are relevant for your team.


You may find yourselves collecting a list of rather abstract concepts, such as engagement or humility. That is a good point to start. Dig a little deeper by asking everyone to share and specify their interpretations of these concepts. Aim to collect stories, examples, and adjectives.

Pick the outcome you can agree on as currently most relevant.


Take some time to research on the internet which situations and behaviors encourage or inhibit theses outcomes. Basically your looking for inputs and processes that create your outcome. Maybe you'll even find a scientific model that illuminates your understanding.

Step 2: Discuss meaning

Return to the outcome you chose and encourage everybody to share why this outcome is especially important.

Here are some questions to reflect on privately before sharing:

  • What does it say about you and the team?
  • How does it connect to all that is good and right in the world?
  • Which aspirations do you link to this outcome?

Step 3: Identify triggers

Reflect on you workdays to identify situations that should trigger a ritual.

Create a shared list of all the moments you feel would lend themselves to start a ritual. Draw on the examples and your research from step 1 to fill this list.

Step 4: Design Routine

Finally, we turn to the most visible element of the ritual. With all your preparation so far you are well equipped to brainstorm multiple routines to create the benefit you seek.

It si easier to brainstorm in 2 phases:

  1. Take 10 minutes to individually gather ideas.
  2. Share your ideas with the group. Do that in rounds where everybody only gets to share one idea at a time. The ideas you share can come from your prepared lists or be spontaneously inspired by prior ideas.

As with any brainstorming, make an effort to:

  • go for quantity
  • build on ideas
  • recombine ideas
  • dare to move the needle
  • appreciate unconventional ideas

With all ideas collected, decide on your three favorites and explore how you'd enact them specifically. Link each of your favorites to a trigger you find most suitable. We recommend to try all three of your favorites and keeping what works and feels best afterwards.


→ Podcast: Masters of Scale w/ Shishir Mehrotra

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