The first rule of an open culture

Start with yourself, says Prezi's Peter Arvai.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 18 Dec 2019

Hungary does not yet have a reputation as a global business hotbed

It was a desire to change that perception that led Peter Arvai to return to Budapest to co-found Prezi in 2009, after being raised in Sweden by Hungarian parents. The presentation software firm now has 100 million users and employs over 300 people worldwide. 

It also was that desire to create "possibility models" that led Arvai to publicly come out as Hungary’s first openly gay CEO - something that could be highly controversial in a country led by a man known his strong anti-LGBT views. 

Arvai admits that he did receive some negative online comments, but mostly received praise and respect from the wider business community. He also says that it has helped him to create a more open, welcoming and inclusive culture.


"If a leader really wants to create an open and inclusive culture they have to start with themselves - if you can’t model it, how the heck could you expect anyone else to? If you’re open about your personal experiences that gives permission to other people to start the conversation. 

"One of the biggest business challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion is that people often self-select out of the process before you’ve had the chance to recruit them. 

"They just assume that this might be an environment, or they come from a background, where they won’t be appreciated as an individual. So the first step is to bring these people forward.

"It’s easy for bosses to say in this sort of politically correct manner that they are for diversity and inclusion, but the reality is that sometimes comes with challenging conversations. You have to be able to have those conversations and make yourself a bit vulnerable. 

"The benefit [of having an open culture] is subtle - when you have an open culture you have better conversations, which leads to better ideas, which then leads to better decisions. As a practical example in the Budapest office we have over 30 nationalities; that is a huge asset when it comes to working out how to reach our global user base. 

"It’s relatively simple things like working out that our Japanese fonts may look horrible to Japanese eyes. Many of us in the company wouldn’t even have been able to tell the difference."

 

Image credit: Prezi

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