When I was a culture strategist at Zappos, I learned that culture becomes a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop when it’s shared. So the the tours and free culture books refresh the culture when people come in with appreciation, energy and new ideas.Culture becomes a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop when it's shared. Click To Tweet
This concept of “Share what you want to keep” is going to keep expanding in my opinion. Most recently, AirBnB decided to share its discovery engine for others to use.
Aerosolve is what Airbnb came up with to process all that data. And Thursday it is made available under what we call “open source” — a free download so developers can build their own smart recommendation engines based on the work Airbnb has already done with machine learning.
Why would they do that? Beyond the good will, others could improve the platform.
How can you share more of your insights and innovations? It can sustain your culture and feed it by welcoming others into the conversation.
Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work issue was recently published. It was fascinating to see that a recent global poll of by Deloitte showed that executives consider culture even more important than leadership.
I thought I would include a few highlights:
1. Ritualize what’s most important
Companies like Marriott have 15 minute daily stand ups. It’s so important to take anything that’s valued and create a ritual so that it’s never forgotten. What are your daily / weekly / monthly and quarterly rituals? (For quarterly I recommend Open Space).
2. Location matters (and not how you think)
Twitter decided to move its headquarters to a part of San Francisco with decrepit hotels, strip clubs and most of the city’s homeless population. The company’s execs say they are not only committed to staying in the area, but also encouraging their employees to help the local population – and claim the desire to do so is actually enticing workers.
I think the most innovative companies are going to come out of Detroit. It’s extremely cheap. Entrepreneurs won’t have to eat ramen and can even buy houses. And the city is very encouraging of new businesses. If you want to build a tight team that is involved with the community, this is going to be the place.
3. Small to medium sized companies are going to lead the way.
Accuity, a small Wisconsin insurance company debuted at number 3! They provide unlimited education reimbursement, compressed work weeks, 10% contribution to 401K, quarterly town hall meetings and “Lunch with an officer” – face to face meetings with execs for all employees. They also gave away $1 million dollars and involve all employees in strategic planning.
If you’re a big company, how can you empower a group the size of a small company? If you’re small, do you have a “wish list” for your culture?
Think of any conference you’ve been to. How much of the content can you tell me about?
For most of us, it’s hardly any. But we remember what we felt. We remember who we met. We remember who we liked.
It’s so easy to focus on content when we’re planning an event or even writing a book. But what do you want people to experience? What do you want them to feel?
Soon I’ll be hosting a panel of executives speaking to their leaders. It’s easy for executives to talk at a very high level about strategy. That kind of talk is so abstract that none of it is memorable.
Rather than telling us about the successful new program roll out strategy, tell us about those moments when you weren’t sure. Tell us when things went sideways. Tell us about what surprised you. And bring us into those moments with you. Describe what you saw, heard and felt.
If you simply stay at a high level and tell us what you learn, then we tune out. If you take us with you on your journey, we’ll hang on every word.
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I recently wrote about taking a 3 month class in stand up comedy (link here). Since then I performed in a club, and the video is below (note: It’s all about dating, and I use two or three swear words).
Here is what I learned in regards to culture:
Feedback loops are always at play
Once feedback loops start they get momentum. With an audience they quickly determine if they like you, and if they do, they are open to laugh. If they don’t, they shut down and it’s much harder to bring them back.
The same can be said of culture. That first interview, meeting, phone call – can make or break anything and how you start those conversations are critical. In the Culture Blueprint I share a template for that first conversation with an employee.
Energy is everything
Culture is a feeling, and whatever feeling you bring with you has a big impact on the room. So what we do before we enter the room makes the difference. On this particular night I was really excited because my friends were there and I got there early to connect with other comics. By the time I hit the stage it felt like I had warmed up for the game.
What do you before you perform at your work? How do you take care of yourself outside the office? It has a big impact when you arrive.
There are formulas and frameworks to success
The first times I bombed it was because I had no real appreciation for the rhythm of comedy. But even long stories that keep you laughing use a series of set-ups, adding in context, delivering a punch and then adding bits called tags. Here’s a graphic I created to illustrate it.
Recognizing systems and flow has had a huge impact on my work. I use frameworks and models such as open-space that allow cultures to self-organize and scale the business (all while having a lot of fun).
PS – As a result of this work, I am expanding my offerings to include an MC role for events, as well as hosting live conversations on stage.