Three Different Cultures

Let’s say you have to choose between one of these three companies based on their culture. 

  • Company A:
    • Keeps only highly effective people
    • You thrive on change
    • Unlimited vacation
    • Pays top of market
    • Career advancement: great role at next company
  • Company B:
    • Keeps only effective people
    • Invents mechanisms for career development
    • Does not compromise for sake of social cohesion
    • Avoids rules
    • Embraces frugality
  • Company C:
    • Makes big bold bets
    • Ensures people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome
    • Value ideas over hierarchy
    • Works tirelessly to earn customer’s trust
    • Does the right thing. period.

If you picked A, you would be at Netflix. Choosing B would have you at Amazon. Finally, C would have you at Uber. You picked a company based on the described cultures, and we can learn a few things from this experience. Firstly, you must be able to walk the talk behind the culture. Secondly, culture requires constant care and reinforcement. Lastly, you must realize that there are magnets and repellants within a company. For example, if a company prioritizes frugality, some people are repelled by that and others are attracted. 

Defining Culture and How To Create It

This talk will contain three chapters. The first is about defining culture and what it means. Then I am going to give some insight into the Netflix model and how it formed. Finally, I will close out by talking about the DEL model. I hope you begin to use the DEL immediately after I tell you about it. 

As we all know, when a company grows, so does complexity. With more complexity comes more rules and processes. Unfortunately, rules tend to inhibit creativity and talent. I think there is a solution to balance the rules and creativity in a company. The solution is company culture. Culture is the leadership and decision-making tool. It articulates “best fit” employees. Plus, it avoids disastrous rules and processes.  

Personally, I believe that culture is the way you behave when no one is looking. Who you hire, fire, and promote. It’s also the key skills and behaviors you seek as you set out to establish common principles and values. In order to create your culture, you need to use mechanisms, unique values, be willing to make hard choices, and bounce back from mistakes.

Click here for Part 2 

Click here for Part 3

About the speaker
Gibson Biddle NerdWallet, Board Observer, Executive-In-Residence Product Member

Gib Biddle is the fmr Netflix VP Product Management and is currently the NerdWallet Board Observer and Executive-in-Residence for Product. He joined Netflix as VP of Product in 2005. In 2010 Gib became the Chief Product Officer of his next startup, Chegg, a textbook rental and homework help company that went public in 2014. Today he’s an adviser, speaker and guest lecturer at both Stanford and INSEAD.