Gravitative Culture

A Tier IV culture exhibits two more vital signs than a Tier III culture; it provides a sense of belonging and is inspirational. Importantly, belonging is different than inspiration (see discussion below on the inspirational vital sign). One can feel a sense of belonging without being inspired; likewise, one can be inspired without feeling a sense of belonging. Of course, a culture may have components that offer both a sense of belonging and inspiration. With these two vital signs, a Tier IV culture is not only sustainable, but also has the ability to attract new members and increase the loyalty of existing members. In other words, such a culture will not only survive in the long term, but prosper. I call this a gravitative culture.


A sense of belonging is the feeling that one is a member of a cultural group. It can mean a sense of spiritual belonging and/or inclusion in a group of people that accepts a person as their own. A sense of belonging is very important to humans as a species, and the long term success of a culture very much depends on whether it can be created. I have summarized four vital indicators that help establish a sense of belonging: history, defining events, camaraderie and security.

People must recognize a shared history to feel they belong to something bigger, whether it’s a group of individuals, family members or co-workers. The earliest humans developed this fundamental need when they were dwelling in caves. A shared history includes a genesis story (e.g., how dad and mom met), myths and legends (i.e., stories that cannot be verified, but are unique, interesting and relevant), heroes (e.g., a co-worker who holds a company record for creating a new product within two months) and villains (e.g., an outsider who wants to destroy the happiness of the family). History can be recorded and passed on formally through written documents and/or informally through stories and narratives shared, for instance, at the dinner table or around the water cooler.

These are experiences that fundamentally change a person’s perspective, or prompt the person to adopt a habit. A culture that enables people to experience defining moments and grow as a result has substantial gravity and influence. People have very selective memories, and tend to narrate their lives based on these defining moments. Such events make people feel inextricably connected to the culture.

Camaraderie is extremely important to sustain relationships among members and enhance their sense of belonging. Often, relationships are stronger between people with similar practices and interests, such as language (dialects, preferred modes of communication, slang or commonly used words, phrases, abbreviations, emojis), cuisines, apparel, body language, sports teams, music, art and literature. Camaraderie also can be created through shared philosophies, world views, norms and expectations, and even ways of thinking, making decisions and completing tasks. One resulting outcome of camaraderie is acceptance and respect from others in the same culture, thus contributing greatly to a sense of belonging.

Security is the belief that others in the same culture will help in times of need and will ensure fair treatment. The motto “one for all, and all for one” reflects an extreme form of security that contributes to a sense of belonging.


An inspiring culture makes its members proud, encourages them to dream better dreams, and induces them to pursue bigger goals. It does not have to be grand and inspirational to others, but it must be inspirational to its members. Inspirational does not mean lofty aspirations for all; rather, it refers to collective recognition of the worthiness of pursuing a particular purpose. An inspirational culture is respected by outsiders.

Goals are abstract and span the temporal continuum—past, present and future—while events and people are concrete and exist in either the past or present. Broadly, goals reflect what a culture aspires (or aspired) to achieve, in the past (i.e., we succeeded, made progress or tried), present (i.e., we are trying) or future (i.e., we hope).

Inspirational events in the past or present create a sense of pride and/or encourage members of a culture to dream bigger and aim higher.

People are concrete and inspirational and exist in either past or present.