Monthly Culture Inspiration: October 2017

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


Visual: Slack Illustrations by Alice Lee

I love Slack as a tool, and I also love the way Slack as a company understands the value of design principles and organizational culture. Slack's organizational values are wonderfully defiant. On its blog, Slack uses beautiful illustrations to convey the human side of the organization. I got curious about who created the illustrations, and a quick Google search brought me to Alice Lee (her official website is here). You can see her wonderful illustrations about the company's values on their career page, and also on a few Slack blog entries here, here, and here. Lee also shares the process behind some of her Slack illustrations here.


Book: The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

“Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen” write co-authors Chip and Dan Heath in their new book The Power of Moments. The Heath brothers analyze the different kinds of "aha" moments that change our lives: moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection. The book mainly has examples from people's personal live, but there are a few workplace stories woven in. In one, the authors write about how a company used defining moments to combat "silo" mentality. Two executives, one from sales and one from marketing, are fed up with the lack of collaboration between the two departments. They decide to use an upcoming two-day offsite as a chance to break down silos.

"The question is: How can they design a meeting that becomes a defining moment for their teams?" The authors explain how they did it using the power of moments: 


1: Break the script: The off-site meeting itself breaks the script. It's a change of environment, a disruption of routines. 

2: Boost sensory appeal, raise the stakes. When the meeting begins, participants are led outside to an actual Formula One racing car in the parking lot. Teams are formed-- with sales and marketing intermixed-- and trained to act as a "pit crew." The teams compete to see who can change the car's tires most quickly. By the end the teams are laughing and clowning-- but deadly serious when it comes time to act as the pit crew. Afterward, back in the meeting room, the teams discuss their experience and what it means for collaboration.


1. Trip over the truth: The leaders surprise the group by inviting a customer to address them. The customer discusses the "whiplash" effect of interacting with the marketing and sales teams. "It's like I'm talking to two different companies," he says.

2. Trip over the truth and stretch for insight. Prior to the offsite, two marketers and two salespeople were "embedded" with the other team for a week. Then, at the off-site meeting, they share what they learned: The marketers embedded in sales present, "What marketing doesn't understand about sales," and their counterparts present, "What sales doesn't understand about marketing." [Reminds me of Ben Horowitz's Freaky Friday technique.]

To read more about the offsite, read the book.


Article to Bookmark: Don't Ship the Org Chart

Ken Norton is a partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures) where he provides product and engineering support to more than 300 portfolio companies including Uber, Nest, Slack, Foundation Medicine, and Flatiron Health. He blogs about the craft of product management. In this two part post, Don't Ship the Org Chart Part 1 and Part 2, he says "It’s tempting to carve up the product in ways that line up cleanly with engineering. For example, one PM owns the front-end and the other owns the back-end. I want you to resist the urge to do this." If you do this, no one is "singularly accountable for the customer experience." If you ship the org chart, each part of the product looks and functions slightly different from the others-- making for a not-very-seamless user experience. Instead, you should organize around customers and use cases.