At Root, we don’t have a poster with our values stuck up on the wall. We don’t believe in printed-out words telling us what to do. Instead, our culture stems from how we behave as a team on a daily basis. In this series, we’ll unpack the concrete things we do to actively create a stimulating, healthy environment where we can do our best work and thrive as individuals.

Start with why

Our team firmly believes in Ben Horowitz’s view that what you do is who you are. The actions you take define you, and for us, this means being super intentional about everything we do. Simon Sinek presented a now-famous TED Talk on the layers that define purpose and how essential it is for businesses to understand why they do what they do if they want to succeed. Knowing what you do is surface-level information, and knowing how you do it will help set you apart, but knowing why you do something is what unites your team and fuels your collective curiosity, drive and passion. Your why enables you to move the needle, so understanding what it is powers you forward and helps you grow.

You can find out more about Simon Sinek’s approach to starting with ‘why’ by reading his book.

At Root, our ‘why’ is to empower the innovators of insurance to build the products of the future – products that are more relevant and accessible to more people. To make this possible, we have to ensure that we’re all aligned and that this purpose is at the centre of our everyday actions. Here are a few practical ways that we do this.

We build our ‘why’ into our daily workflows

We always try to find practical ways to build habits into our processes that drive our desired behaviours – in this case, to encourage us to consider why we’re building solutions or tackling a particular task before we work on how to do it.

Because we work with a lot of documentation, we’ve set up a template with prompting questions to help us frame our thinking every time we start something new.

We’ve learned that asking ourselves, “what is the purpose of this doc?” every time we open a fresh one forces us to consider the value, goal and impact of the project before we get bogged down in the details. It also helps future readers approach the project from the same frame of mind – helping us align on tasks and objectives quicker.

We constantly assess if our actions are getting us to our ‘why’

First-principles matter in everything we do. After we understand our why, we consider every solution from scratch – we don’t assume that the building blocks we’re starting with are already the best versions they can be. We ask questions as we work towards solutions and are careful not to waste time reinventing the wheel.

We recently looked at how we organised meetings. We realised that our approach wasn’t working as well as it could be, so we’ve introduced a new structure that brings ‘why’ into the process from the get-go. Instead of just sending someone a calendar invite to meet, we’ve worked out an approach to label different types of meetings and provide information on who is attending and what the objectives are. This has helped create more transparency and allows us to understand why it’s important to be there before the meeting has even begun and how the session will help drive us all forward towards achieving our greater ‘why’.

Our culture is something that we all work on building and maintaining together. We believe that to make it something real means being disciplined and methodical in our practice. Finding ways to return to our ‘why’ every day is a helpful way to keep us on the same page so that we can keep growing as a team and pushing the boundaries of the space we’re operating in.

“Because your culture is how your company makes decisions when you’re not there. It’s the set of assumptions your employees use to resolve the problems they face every day. It’s how they behave when no one is looking. If you don’t methodically set your culture, then two-thirds of it will end up being accidental, and the rest will be a mistake.” ― Ben Horowitz, What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

We’re looking for people to join our team. If our ‘why’ resonates with you, look at our careers page to see if we have a role open for you.