I’m really surprised that “culture” is the word of the year, and not “awkward.” Maybe I’m just seeing it everywhere because I feel like I’m getting a master’s degree in awkward right now, and it hit a crescendo yesterday. More on that in a moment.
“What happens when we intentionally create awkward experiences in dance, touch, conversation? Come play and find out.”
It was a blast. We talked about what awkwardness is, and then we created it by saying what’s on our minds, standing too close, touching in that zone between appropriate and inappropriate.
At a place like Burning Man, nothing is really awkward, except for coming home and dealing with the real world. And it’s here, in Los Angeles, California where I’m finding it.
I’ve been taking a class in stand-up comedy, and wow, talk about awkward and vulnerable. I’m used to being on stage but this is a whole new level. If talking to a company is like going to the gym, then stand-up is like going to bootcamp… with the Navy Seals.
I’m about to start teaching at American Jewish University where I need to figure out how to relate to 20-year olds. And next week I’m going to Hawaii as one of the youngest members of a group called the Transformational Leadership Council. It’s a wonderful group, though I feel like the new kid at school where everyone knows each other.
And just yesterday I felt the business equivalent of having your pants pulled down in public.
I have been working on my book launch for months, and it’s been up for pre-sale on Amazon on the Kindle. Well, it was up. They claim I never uploaded the final file when I did. And so they sent me this:
Dear Robert J. Richman,
The pre-order for your book The Culture Blueprint has been canceled. Customers have been notified that it was canceled because you did not provide the file as committed. Pre-orders were canceled because we did not receive the final version of your file by the due date.
Kindle Direct Publishing Team
Not only did they cancel all my customers’ orders. They tell them I’m the jack ass for never submitting the book. When I told them that the file was uploaded and that customer service verified it several days before, they said:
“I’m truly sorry if we told you that everything was fine, we’ll take the appropriate actions with the person who misinformed you about the status of your book. Regarding the customers who pre-ordered your book, I suggest to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to inform them of the change and encourage to buy the book again.”
I was so upset and nauseous that I was shaking. This has been months in the making. Friends were very sympathetic, but I was in a state of shock.
Last night I was laying in bed, unable to fall asleep. It hit me. This may actually be a really good thing. And I can’t believe it took the awkwardness of Amazon embarrassing me in public in order to see it.
How do they achieve it? People don’t go from regular civilian society to jumping on grenades without hesitation.
In their training they march… for hours. Aligning voice, body, mind are key to building a strong team – so strong that military recruiting never focuses on the missions or causes. They focus on the bonds between the men and women who serve. They focus on getting them so tightly connected they become one.
Stop thinking about how to inspire your team. Stop taking on the responsibility of motivating them.
Inspiration is temporary. Connection lasts a lifetime.
Walter Isaacson speaks on Apple culture. He shares his insights on learning about Steve Jobs through writing the biography. When he asked what was his greatest product, Isaacson expected Jobs to say the ipod or iphone. Instead, Jobs said it’s much harder to build a team that can continuously develop great products, and that’s what Apple’s culture did.
Cultures are optimized. Zappos is optimized for service. Google is optimized for engineering. Apple is optimized for excellence and design. Yes, you can have many values. But the strongest companies are known for one or two above all else.