April 21, 2014

the culture

don’t fuck up the culture - this piece by brian chesky (founder of airbnb) made its way across HN today.

i keep hearing more politically correct and corporate-speak variants of this statement. but, rarely, when i hear it do i think that there’s a culture worth preserving being espoused by the speaker. more often than not it’s code for, “don’t force us to change or adapt. we can’t stand to have modifications in the fealty structure imposed on our well-laid plans for ladder ascension.”

preserving culture is more than simply intoning the notion of “core values”, or “a shared way of doing something with passion”. plenty of companies have their core values emblazoned on their badges and speak of doing things with passion. if you’re the CEO and you want to preserve culture, you it seems clear that there’s a need to stay small and you can’t be beholden to the (stock) market.

i would argue that the core element in preservation of culture is the quality of people that you hire. when you hire people who do things with passion, you’re hiring a different caliber of employee. they may not be the fastest or the smartest but they’re aligned with the vision and execution. they don’t have a specific political agenda. instead, they’ve reasonably subjugated themselves to the goals of the organization and are willing to prioritize execution and group goals over personal agendas and politics.

a company with a specific (and successful) culture goes out of its way to find the right people and the right fit. it doesn’t build pyramids or fiefdoms. there aren’t myriads of layers of middle management with multiple tiers of VPs and directors. where these things exist, there is rarely “culture”.

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