Context not Control

A little late but the Netflix culture presentation finally found its way to me. I read it a week or so ago and was excited by its utopic vision of organisational culture. It’s an attractive idea: that an organisation achieve great things through a couple of very simple rules.

1) Context not Control – if your organisation has talented people, context permits innovation and flexibility while control stifles it. Set the tightest of goals but the loosest design constraints to a talented team and they will deliver it – and often in ways that you will never expect.

Everyone like genius, but once you get them, how do you keep them? Netflix’s answer is pay them well but most importantly, create an amazing workplace that focuses on …

2) Not just Talent – Imagine working with people who are amazingly intelligent, creative, extremely productive, very driven, emotionally resilient, great at communicating (ie politically astute), confident (but not arrogant) and really good at building and maintaining relationships (ie really nice). Catch is, you have to be one too (pretty much every day) or you will be shown the door very quickly. This bit is the most important bit. As soon as you let morons in the door (and everyone who isnt at least as good as everyone else in this type of culture is a moron), they will rapidly metastasise. As the slide pack memorably states: “Adequate performance will attract a generous severance package” and “No talented jerks”.

If that sounds good to you, then you might want to consider whether you are actually up to scratch or just deluded. The hot-house Darwinian system they describe if it works, should self-drives to more and more distant outliers. Do you belong in the multiple 1% Venn diagram intersections that defines the Netflix sweet talent spot?


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