Monthly Culture Inspiration: December 2016

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: The Hogwarts Guide to Company Culture

This visual combines two of my favorite things: company culture and Harry Potter. Venngage (a website that lets anyone create beautiful infographics) sorted 52 of their favorite tech companies into the four Hogwarts houses. To read more about the criteria and sorting process, click here.

Book: The Workbook: Redesigning Nine to Five

This gem of a book comes from Pekka Pohjakallio and Saku Tuominen who run 925 Design, a Finnish consultancy that helps companies create effective workplaces. The Workbook: Redesigning Nine to Five aims to bring joy back to work. The authors spent a year conducting design research within nine Finnish workplaces, and came away with advice and tools for changing workplace habits. For example, they recommend scheduling internal meetings at a default length of 45 minutes, instead of an hour, to allow for transition and break times between meetings. They also recommend grouping meetings and work time based on the type of work (Quick individual work, Slow individual work, Quick group work, Slow group work); having one day a week without meetings; and creating a space for employees to take brief naps. The authors write about a trip they took to a Chinese company where "the whole place goes dark and quiet between one and two in the afternoon. They roll out mats, take off their shoes, get out their pillows, and start snoring! It’s really cozy, like a daycare! The foreign consultants are the only ones stumbling around in the dark."

Article to Bookmark: Organizational Blueprints for Success

I love culture typologies (as evidenced by the Hogwarts typology above). Here's another incredibly helpful typology: organizational blueprints for culture. 

Two professors at Stanford's business school wanted to find out how to create a company culture that encouraged trust between employees. They came up with a framework of five culture categories among tech startups in Silicon Valley.

Here are the five types: "Star" culture prefer to hire talent from top schools and give their employees lots of autonomy. "Engineering" cultures apply an engineering mindset to every part of the organization (think: Facebook). "Bureaucracy" cultures have many layers of middle management and have regular rituals to communicate the leaders' values to the employees. "Autocracy" cultures are similar to bureaucracy cultures except the CEO or founder has more influence. "Commitment" cultures expect employees to stay loyal to the company for longer, and generally spend more money on HR and talent earlier on, to make sure they get the culture right. The professors categorized and started tracking 167 tech startups in 1994, and followed them for a decade to see which ones survived. The results were surprising: the companies with Commitment cultures were the most successful. In fact, none of the commitment culture startups failed. Why? Because the Commitment culture companies articulated "enduring overarching goals" and "created a powerful sense of belonging." In essence, the founders of Commitment cultures "wanted to build the kind of company where people would only leave when they retire." And even if people did leave earlier, the company still benefited from the initial intention. Startup founders take note! Which culture type is your company on track to become?

The typology was originally published in a fairly dense academic paper, "Organizational Blueprints for Success in High-Tech Startups." But, here is a much shorter summary from MIT Sloan