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Revisiting Company Culture December 17, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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It’s amusing that Silicon Valley continues to beat the drum of culture, and cultural fit, even as it becomes increasingly demonstrable that culture causes more problems than it cures.  Yet if anything, the pounding of the culture drum gets steadily louder.

I’m sorry, I call bullshit.  I have been around the block once or twice (or more), and my experience with culture is that it is a lame excuse for people to say they only want to work with people like themselves.  I understand the attraction of doing so, but there is no good business reason for that.  In fact, it likely harms the business.  Case in point, Uber, who may well be fatally flawed by its culture.

Most companies try to sell to a fairly wide swath of people.  To effectively build products for a diverse customer base, you need diverse inputs, which means from people with different ideas and points of view.  Age, gender, race, education, and ethnic background all play into getting a broad picture of the customer base.  Many companies I have worked for build products that they themselves want to use.  Excuse me, that is not a company, that is a club.

I once worked for a company that abruptly fired everyone who didn’t go to an office daily, because the CEO claimed that it was vitally important for everyone to be soaked in its unique culture.  That “unique” culture was toxic, with blame, cutthroat tactics, and nonaccountability.

So I think it is time to give us a break from the screaming of culture.  Most company leaders speaking of their culture have no idea what they are talking about, yet we nod and smile at their sagacity.  Culture can matter, but not the kind of culture these jokers are talking about.

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