We are in a constant state of becoming, and it’s not entirely obvious to anyone or any team that is starting out, and nobody tells you this in school, that we must reinvent ourselves.
Case in point Patty McCord, former Head of HR for Netflix and the person credited with creating their culture, believes that the ideal culture isn’t afraid to reinvent itself:
“No pain, no gain. No risk, no reward. Everything I’ve ever done was embracing the idea of risk. When I coach startups now, I say, to me the ideal next culture that one of you is going to create is one where people is like, ‘oh we’re changing everything? Cool! That will be so fun! You mean we’re starting over? How great will that be?’ And then people will look to embrace change instead of hanging on to what happened before.”
A culture that reinvents itself matters. She should know, as that is what got her fired from Netflix, ironically.
Her ideas about culture were codified in a widely shared deck about Netflix’s culture. And there is a reason why Netflix’s culture deck hit a tone with everyone: their culture is so uncommon that it inspired other companies to emulate and evaluate their own culture, and develop their own decks.
Because Netflix has a culture that demands excellence, these are some key ideas in the presentation that caused a stir:
- “Outstanding” employees only. Netflix doesn’t accept anyone who does an “adequate” job (Hastings says those hires often lead to “generous severance packages”).
- “Freedom and responsibility” vs command-and-control: Employees get to make decisions; managers just give them the right context to do so.
- No “brilliant jerks.” It doesn’t matter how good you are at the job. If you’re a jerk, you won’t stick around Netflix for long.
The above reinforces the idea that Netflix doesn’t aim to preserve it’s culture; but to improve it:
New employees often ask about preserving the Netflix culture. Reed tells them that “to preserve the culture — to pickle it — is the wrong solution.” Netflix doesn’t see its culture as something static, but something to be always worked on. “It’s only when you struggle to get better that you really keep it vital and alive,” he said.
The ideal culture is one that isn’t afraid to reinvent itself.
"Great companies reinvent themselves while they are (still) successful. Mediocre companies feast on success & get disrupted!"
— Alex Osterwalder (@AlexOsterwalder) February 19, 2016
Bottom line: Experimentation creates possibility, and CEO’s must make peace with the fact that they must dare to create a culture that finds the revolution before it finds them, this is the secret to transformation; and to Netflix’s success.