In the Culture Blueprint I talk about how culture is related to systems theory. There are feedback loops (culture feeds on itself).
Here are the two kinds and why you should know about them:
1. Reinforcing Loops
These are the values you want to be known for. You want reinforce behaviors that support these values.
2. Balancing Loops
I would actually call these counter-balancing loops. They make sure the intended value does not go out of control, because any system that is optimized for a value without a counterbalance will tip over.
Let me explain…
At Zappos, the first value is “Deliver WOW! through service.” There are many reinforcing behaviors that go into this, from the way calls are answered to how problems are handled.
But… if that was the only value, imagine how it would go out of control if followed to an extreme. People would spend a lot of money on making customers happy, even to the detriment of the company. Or, people would focus so much on helping the customer that they would lose focus on themselves and burn out.
So the counter balancing values are “Do more with less” to keep costs down, and “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness” to make sure everyone is taking care of themselves.
You can see this in many companies.
Google places a high priority on academics. So they balance the education intensity of college with all the amenities of college too.
Apple is known for pursuing excellence. But if they only pursued excellence they would never ship because it would never be perfect. And because of that, they also have a high tolerance for failure. Steve Jobs said he loved the products they never created as much as the ones that they did.
So take the highest value you have for your company. Now take it to an extreme. Now what would be the counter balance?
Oh, and what do you think Steve Jobs said when asked what his all-time favorite invention was?
It was Apple itself – The company. Meaning the culture and people. Culture is the key factor.