Where does your company's culture come from?
I had an interesting conversation with our HR manager the other day about how our company's culture was created and cultivated. She claimed that culture begins and ends with upper management — that culture was purely a function of the top brass, whose direction determined how it evolved. This struck me as odd, and for someone I rarely disagree with I was surprised to hear her say this so matter-of-factly. I think I always assumed that at most companies the management team was at best an well-intentioned impedance to a genuinely enjoyable company culture. Sure, the brass can institute corporate-mandated fun or other culture-rific policies, but it is my belief that the actual core culture of a company — it's soul — grows more organically based on the personalities of the people who work there.
In 2012, by some crazy stroke of luck I was invited to participate in the Diablo III Beta program. It had been 12 agonizing years since the last iteration of the game was released (not including expansions). 12 years is a long time to wait for any sequel in a successful franchise, but even more conspicuous for a giant game company with deep pockets like Blizzard Entertainment.
Hardly a newsworthy story, or at least so I thought before reading this article about Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg:
Personally, I’ve never been psyched about working a ton of hours, and I do what I can to avoid it. Of course there’s times where deadlines dictate burning the midnight oil: a client proposal, quarterly tax paperwork, or overdue blog entries, as examples. But, there’s a subtly-sinister productivity-eroding quality to working too much. You may not even notice it. But it’s definitely there, a fatigue or mental malaise that pervades daily life to the extent no amount of coffee or Crunk can fix it.
We've all seen the Superbowl ads where corporate behemoths use extreme sports, rubberized Sasquatch suits and anthropomorphized babies to shill their wares.
It's perhaps the most raw exposure any marketing campaign could hope for. A captive audience of hundreds of millions of people. Most Superbowl ads are identifiable in terms of what the ad is for, some are humorous, a few are pithy, cogent or genuinely funny, and fewer still leave the viewer with a sense of interest in the product. All are stupefyingly expensive. And short. And therein lies the rub.
The technology industry and indeed the world lost a titan of the modern technology pantheon yesterday. Steve Jobs was a pioneer and an innovator and a progressive thought leader, but what may have been greatest about Jobs in my view was his audacious, fervent and oftentimes smug ability to say No.
Nope is what makes Apple great. Adobe Flash? Nope. Doodads, fads, and support for legacy standards? Hell no. People hate it, but it's like taking your medicine, you'll thank Jobs for it later. Thank you, Steve.
"Dear humorless curmudgeons of La Jolla, please holster your shaking fists momentarily while I have some fun with words."
Maybe that should preface the sign posted outside my office...
Our company Fairway Technologies may very well host a pack of domesticated nerds and technocrats, but we do maintain a basic understanding of common social behaviors, including the use of humor to add levity to the otherwise dull software consulting business.