MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Scott Kurnit

 When I announced the MBA Mondays series on People and mentioned I would end with a number of guest posts, I got an email from my friend Scott Kurnit, founder of About.com and Keep Holdings. Scott said, "Culture that is something I have thought a ton about. I'd love to contribute a guest post."

So what follows are Scott's thoughts and experiences on building culture in an organization.

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Culture

Every company has a culture. The issue is – do you let it happen by accident or do you shape it?

– The CEO is the culture driver. It can’t be done by HR or anyone else. You either live it… or don’t bother.

– Many cultural imperatives are the same at every company. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them down and socialize them, but come up with the 3 or 4 that make your company special, that make someone want to join your company… or not. Your people ARE your culture. The culture quickly takes on a life of its own.

– My favorite cultural imperatives are: Be Adaptive, Be Adoptive, Encourage Push Back, and Cherish Input, but NOT consensus. That said, these are ours – adopt what you like, but make your culture your own.

I think about company culture every day, but last week was especially poignant with About.com back in the news. We “pre-set” the About culture on day one and it’s one of the half dozen reasons the company is around 15 years later after six CEOs, four owners and almost no investment for the last decade.

As Fred noted in his May post kicking off the culture discussion, you can get away with an accidental culture for the first 20 or 30 hires – but then culture takes on a life of its own. I’d say that you’re better off doing what we did with About when from the outset Bill Day and I locked ourselves in a room and thought it through. What kind of people did we want to work with? What was going to make us strong all the way through to a thousand team members (yes, we banned the word employee). Were we going to trust our people or manage tightly? Were we willing to pay top dollar or save money and hire at the 50th percentile? Who was going to be most important – senior management, staff, Guides, advertisers or users – and in what order? What would our decision making process be? Would we come in early or stay late? Did we care if people were in the office or working remotely? Etc., etc.

Culture was extra important to the About model since our business needed to get big fast, but it also showed me that defining a culture sooner than later builds the best business foundation. It seems so obvious, but out of 150 start-up CEOs I’ve discussed this with I found only three who pre-determined their culture. That’s crazy!

It doesn’t matter what your culture is, but have one. The sooner everyone knows what makes the place tick, the sooner you’ll hire the right team members and then they’ll hire the right ones and then them and them and them.

While I list all 10 of the Keep Holdings culture imperatives below, I’ll pull out a few that are religion for me and likely the most controversial.

Be Adaptive: We’re working in an amazingly dynamic industry. Be prepared to change on a dime. If I hire you to do X but need you to do Y tomorrow, buck up and go with it… or don’t come in the first place. You sure get a different kind of person when they’re game to ride the waves. Don’t want to ride waves, go work at Big Slow Corp Inc. and good luck with that.

Be Adoptive: Hey, we work in the Internet – Invent like crazy, but don’t be afraid to adopt good ideas from everywhere. Don’t tread on someone’s patented business process, but if you like someone’s ideas, build on them. Yes, that’s legal – and it’s OK to admit you don’t have all the great ideas.

Pushback: Everyone should know why they’re doing something. I’ll never forget when I asked a colleague at Showtime for some quick data analysis. When I asked him the next day where it was and he told me he needed another day I realized *I* screwed up by not telling him I only wanted the info if he could do it in 10 minutes. Everyone should be encouraged to say, why, how long should I spend, what should I not do instead and are you sure it’s worth the effort? While this was about saving some time, this simple concept now makes our company more transparent and productive at every turn – whether for little tasks or big strategic issues.

Input, not consensus: This may be the biggest for me since it’s the major thing I can point to for why AOL crushed Prodigy in the pre-internet online world. I still have nightmares of 18 people sitting around a table trying to make a pricing decision. It took Prodigy over a year to adjust pricing to be more in line with – and trump AOL and it took Steve Case’s AOL one measly day to respond. One year… one day. I still get chills. Rather than have the indecision of 18 people, pick one to be the decider as the very first action. Trust me, that person feels the weight and authority when they own the decision. They’ll get a ton of input… rather than having endless discussions. Group decision-making makes people fearful of engaging with the concern that it will never end. When one person’s in charge… they want to hear it all. And fast. And get it right. And crisp. And done!

OK, here’s the whole list that drives Keep.com, TheSwizzle and AdKeeper. Feel free to Adopt as appropriate… but make sure you live it. These are not for everyone… but you should all have those that work for you.

Consumers always come first.
We operate as an “upside-down pyramid:” customers first, those who directly engage with customers second, management last.
We respect individual privacy and aim to give consumers greater control of their web experiences.
We embrace community, with users in control.

We maximize value to our partners.
We love brands, products and services!
We partner with brands to help them succeed on the web.
But user experience trumps money every time.

We operate with the highest integrity.
We are straight shooters and demand integrity in principle and practice.
We don’t tolerate politics.
We admit and confront our mistakes… and learn from them.

We are adaptive, flexible and nimble.
We race towards opportunity.  We spin on a dime.
We move at Internet speed – ahead of the crowd.
Jobs can change at any time.

We are adoptive, embracing good ideas from all sources.
We embrace diversity in perspective, viewpoint, thinking and actions.
All ideas are welcome and appreciated.

We encourage teamwork, risk-taking, creativity, and speed-to-market
Teamwork makes better products, but can slow things down.
So, we encourage single ownership, creativity, risk and speed.

We value input (& push-back), not consensus.
We value everyone’s opinions but recognize the power of crisp and quick decisions.
Decision-owners must solicit input, welcome push-back, and ultimately make the call and execute.

We are strategically focused.
Our work is market focused.
We build and evolve world-class products.
Our offerings will be powerful, relevant, scalable and low friction.

We only want to work with the best people, those who are prepared to work harder than the competition.
We are positive in our outlook and behavior.
We will compensate better.
We will have more fun.
We will sprint a marathon and win our races.
We will succeed together.

We exist to build long-term value for our investors.
Everyone who works here is an owner.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

    1. fredwilson

      yup. Reed Hastings is a master

      1. Mario Bucolo

        OT (sorry) just to know if you receive the “sweet” package I tried to delivery to your office on July 3rd…just to know if who have the charge to delivery do it correctly. Thanks. Mario

        1. fredwilson

          Which one was it? I got a bunch while I was out

          1. Mario Bucolo

            was a small box white with blu small lines and a gold logo Verona & Bonvegna…hope the content is already fresh…Hope who delivery don’t lost it there is also my business card as PhotoSpotLand just to track who send the small box…

          2. Mario Bucolo

            just send an email with box content description 😉

          3. fredwilson

            hmm. let me see. doesn’t ring a bell.

          4. William Mougayar

            Sicilian pastries? Mmmm … buongusto

    2. georgebc

      Thanks for posting this – very interesting reading.

    3. brian trautschold

      thanks for posting this deck. mba mondays + conversation have been incredibly educational.

    4. Shawn Cohen

      So does Rand Fishkin’s/SEOmoz’s TAGFEE model, http://www.seomoz.org/blog/….TL;DR: Every SEOmoz employee must be:TransparentAuthenticGenerousFunEmpatheticExceptionalThey both hire and measure performance w/ TAGFEE.

  1. William Mougayar

    Great post. This is the money quote for me because employees will join you or leave you by fitting or not fitting with your company culture. “The sooner everyone knows what makes the place tick, the sooner you’ll hire the right team members and then they’ll hire the right ones and then them and them and them.”But there’s a difference between the Culture itself and the Corporate Objectives. They work together, but they are not the same. Here’s an excellent example from HP that has a distinct list of the 2.http://www.hpalumni.org/hp_way.htm

    1. Michael C. Joseph

      This is an incredible distinction. One is like a manifesto for the business, the other a manifesto for the individuals that are a part of it.

    2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      I like the point about the distinction between two. Good example by HP

    3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      The only problem with the HP way is its so much Hogwash.Is this “trust and respect for individuals” ?For years, the cartridges have had suggested “sell by dates,” said HP’s senior ink and media scientist, Nils Miller. But in 1999, HP installed chips on some cartridges that communicate with the printer to tell it how long it has been since the cartridge was manufactured and installed in the printer. After a certain time, the printer will discontinue use of the cartridge.Miller said HP followed suit because of “market pressure.”http://www.consumeraffairs….

      1. William Mougayar

        That’s why it’s not called the HP Way anymore to much chagrin to us Alumni. Note the link I shared was from the Alumni’s website and it was the original HP Way and Corporate Objectives.It doesn’t concur 100% with the current HP site who doesn’t even call them the HP Way. They call it “Shared Values” and they have butchered the original list http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Interesting William – I don’t doubt your frustration but …Compromises on promises show the value of the original promise – it was and is worthless.If culture can claim a legacy – then it is responsible for what is left behind. I we are free to blame future failures on successors, we should not imply lasting promises.I am afraid HP did and still routinely does make promises that are lies – it rips its customers off systematically.Your fond memories and undoubted integrity of many of your colleagues does not change the fact that HP trust reaches no further than their cartridges print – strictly limited !

          1. William Mougayar

            I agree that today’s HP isn’t what it used to be. But I don’t agree that its current downfall implies that its original values were worthless. Management can screw up anything, including good things. The legacy of the HP Way speaks for itself and is not limited to the confines of the organization. That achievement alone is a spectacular one, and it includes having been largely responsible for the birth of Silicon Valley.But I’m pretty sure that my fond memories and the integrity of my colleagues are not related to your frustrations with HP’s cartridges policies 🙂

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Hi William – I must concede your last point. :)I also agree “Management can screw up anything, including good things.”My point is that promises that are not kept are always betrayals, and quite possibly you feel this more keenly than me.That original intentions were good I also don’t doubt. When I assert that remaining value is worthless this is not in terms of spun off legacy goodness, which again I cannot question, but to the current audience for those cultural claims they are worse than useless because they simply no longer ring true, the culture is broken. So from today’s perspective broken promises would have better been never made.

          3. William Mougayar

            Yup. We agree on that conclusion for sure.

  2. awaldstein

    Good one…My experience is that culture creates itself regardless of what you do. By making it a conscious process, you make it something that everyone feels is their own, not something they need to adjust to.That’s rule #1 for marketing. Include everyone you target as the creator and the result will belong to everyone.

  3. Cam MacRae

    Excellent stuff.Glad to read your thoughts on building consensus. It’s more important to get buy-in, that is, agreement to support a given decision, than consensus.Now if only I could get my birkenstock wearing colleagues to buy-in to that point… 😉

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      The Swiss political system bears study on this.Great intro from Der Spiegel in Englishhttp://www.spiegel.de/inter…In my experience consensus or non-public opposition as a control method works excellently for a conservative mechanism for statutory change and defends minorities well.However it is unwieldy and slow in the face of disruption. But what is often overlooked is that it is popular – no-one is left in the cold.So people will defend the system they are subjected to very robustly when challenged – and that is part of a culture. (Sounds a little like the right to raise a citizens militia – under *certain circumstances* )This also explains how the Swiss honour system smarts when it fails publicly (consider “Swiss” the airline and recent banking troubles) – the shame is felt by the nation even those with no “interest”.

      1. Cam MacRae

        Unwieldy and slow is what kills early stage businesses.

  4. Tom Labus

    Thanks, Scott. That’s was great!Culture comes form the personality of the CEO. I don’t think you can adopt a “style” or culture without people knowing it’s BS.If you are consistent and your actions show that, you can be a little crazy as long as people know you really care.People sniff out BS immediately.

    1. JLM

      .Culture IS the CEO. The CEO IS the culture.You are absolutely right. People can see whether it fits and they can smoke out a fakir or a poseur in a second.If a CEO is “making it up” on a long weekend, even he doesn’t know from whence it comes.But if you are living it, then you don’t have to think about it. Because it is natural and it already was in you.The greatest driver is personal example. People are always watching. They see everything. You can’t put a head fake on example.I once ran a company in which a “mistake” had been made which was to our financial detriment. Not a huge break the bank mistake but one that could feed a family of four for a year.When brought to me, I looked at that person and simply said: “In this outfit, we eat all the dropped pies.” Nothing more. He understood and acted accordingly. We honored the quote.I never said another word but that phrase resonated through the company in such a manner that I heard it back from other people.The integrity of that company at every level resulted in our doing more business than any of our competitors because our spoken word was more powerful and binding than a 100-page contract.I never thought of it as “culture” but rather as “honor”. Our word was good and our honor was uncompromising and it paid a big dividend..

      1. Tom Labus

        That was wonderful, thanks.

      2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        @JLM – would score this at 100+ if you would spell it honour – but I will adopt your tiny peccadillo for the purpose of clarification of two other minor but important observations :)Uncompromising honor is the only type – so respect a true martyr – even when you disagree with their position.Honor thus does not pay a dividend – but rather is a dividend, and sometimes (happily) it pays in the here and now !Well played !

      3. JamesHRH

        I have counsel led several struggling CEOs on this issue – it is about you, whether you like it or not.

  5. Mark Essel

    The guidelines for culture are applicable to any community’s formation and continuity.I think too many corporations shy away from an essential concept for corporations, they exist to deliver a profit. That may be to their owners, team members, and even collaborating customers.Gotta take care mixing social (and cultural) guides with market guides.A few of the maker or breakers for corporate culture.Do team member’s family’s come before or after business objectives are complete? How flexible is the business unit on this topic. That’s a biggy.How much freedom do individuals have with their schedule. I tend to be an early riser and like going for a long morning walk so my work days don’t usually start until 8:30-10. I also work with a fantastic team in Manhattan, but work from home 5-6 days a week (depending on how busy I am) and in the office the other days.Salary-> make it a non issue for a core team member. If they can’t contribute at the level you need, then low balling salary/benefits won’t help the business or the individual accomplish each of their goals.Benefits, speaking of compensation make sure time off is not only allowed by encouraged. Health care should be a no brainer, either offer an amazing plan or contribute towards individual plans with a flat cash level.Feedback, contribution, autonomy, and authority, I think you nailed these in the post.

  6. Eric Hunzeker

    Great post, Scott. Many of your culture imperatives really resonated with me. The list sort of reminds me of the “secret sauce” recipes I’ve help get down on paper for companies through the years. These lists contained, most times, some cultural elements, but also included key strategic imperatives and guiding principles. Some things we always had in those lists, which I wondered about for your list, were negative items — i.e. things we were NOT. It’s (relatively) easy to bust out a list of things you are (or in many cases “aspire to be” really), but having to line out a few key things that you are NOT really sharpens the steel. Have you considered this?

  7. Richard

    “we” vs “me”, can turn things upside down.

  8. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.:-)

    1. kenberger

      Guest posts on most blogs do tend to run far too long in size. Even when they’re excellent, like this one, or by a stud, like Scott is.

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      So i wrote that for you in elaboration.culture is something you hear.dot. see. dot. grow up with.dot.and randomly you hear from your great grandpa.

    3. JamesHRH

      Carl – is that Mark Twain?

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Attributed often to Twain but seems is from Blaise Pascal.A bit like the Oscar Wilde moment when a fellow remarked on one of Oscar’s many witty quips with – “I wish I’d said that” …To which Wilde replied – “You will”

  9. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    really enjoyed this post and completely agree with the essential role that CEO play in setting the culture. I think culture is an important considering for both employees and employer and is an important considering for both

  10. LE

    pick one to be the decider as the very first action. Trust me, that person feels the weight and authority when they own the decision. They’ll get a ton of input… rather than having endless discussions.To me this is a really powerful point. Reminds me of the saying “a camel is a horse designed by committee”.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…The problem with consensus also is that votes aren’t necessarily weighed correctly or the opinion of one person or persons in the group can unduly influence other members and gain their vote or sway members to choose a populist route based on their stupidity or lack of knowledge of the subject.Some of the most successful business situations I have observed have been those at which there is a clear figure head that is in charge and seems to guide the company with an iron fist, at least on the surface as portrayed by the media… (Jobs, Ellison, Buffet, Walton as well as countless business people that wouldn’t be commonly known to readers of this blog.) They are prima donnas and, yes, they do take input but in the end they make the decision and get what they want according to their belief system.Of course consensus does have it’s place in the world for people who want to CYA and be able to point fingers and avoid blame in the event the wrong decision is made. Consensus is also good if you are trying to decide what movie to see or restaurant to go to with friends or the family or what vacation to take.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      See alsohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wik…http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…And many other reasons that the masses may be mistaken

  11. John Cutler

    “It doesn’t matter what your culture is, but have one. The sooner everyone knows what makes the place tick, the sooner you’ll hire the right team members and then they’ll hire the right ones and then them and them and them.”Culture is embodied in the leaders of the company, and can’t merely represent a “wish list” of characteristics they they themselves may or may not possess. In this regard, honesty with oneself is the only path forward. You have to be able to walk the walk, or get out of the way.I would argue that the existence of a culture that clashes with the behavior of senior executives and first hires is actually more damaging than having no cultural imperatives in place. Why? Because your best employees are keenly aware of dissonance. They sign up because of the theory, and will be quick to respond to the practice positively or negatively.People internalize phrases like integrity, creativity, risk-taking, adaptive, and consumer-first very differently. So merely have them on paper does nothing. Again, you have to walk the walk.

    1. Barry Engel

      Well stated.

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      paper.

    3. PhilipSugar

      That’s a great point. Having them written down and not following is much more of a negative than not having them written down. People will literally mock you. I’m not saying don’t write them down, but be prepared to live them 24/7. You don’t want to run finances open book? Great, I agree. But don’t say we run everything open book.When a co-founder Dave and I sold a company, we sold it to a company that was much more formal than us. They had culture written down, one point was a very long one that was about open dialogue, no politics, admit mistakes etc. It must have been fifty words. The first couple of weeks people would watch Dave and I occasionally verbally spar and see employees jump right in to the dialogue. Well the new CEO told us we were acting “unprofessionally” and we should always come up with a consensus in private and never let employees see us disagree.We were flabbergasted. Huh?? Dave of course made some flip remark about the “culture book”. He lasted there much less than me. Of course we had tons of the acquiring company come out for us when we would go get beers after work, and the comments about the “asshat” CEO were withering.

  12. David O. Smith

    Love the direct approach to defining culture. Critical as the firm grows.Recently, we took it an extra step by conducting Leadership Analytics. This data and insights on our Leadership Culture (DNA) helped us see how we truly operated with one another throughout the company. We were then able to improve team dynamics among all functions, locally and overseas.

  13. JLM

    .”It doesn’t matter what your culture is, but have one.”It is my sense that in the blur that has become American business — faster data accumulation, more decisions required, faster competitive responses — we have discounted the value of thought, simply pondering issues to find not just “a” solution but the best possible solution and the “right” solution.I am all in favor of the AOL v Prodigy decision comparison — being a firm believer that 80% right and done on time gets you in the Pay Window line more surely than any other strategy.But that decision was based upon decisive leadership. The lion leading the sheep rather than the sheep leading the lions or worse more sheep.It DOES matter what your culture is. It matters more than anything else.It also matters whether the culture is natural or a “hot house” culture, contrived through hyrdoponics rather than antiseptic natural sunlight, rich soil and a gentle rain.Building a winning company culture has been around since well before Drucker and, like sex, was not invented by this generation.This generation is thoughtful about it and that is very, very good and this blog post is excellent. No intent to piss on anyone’s fire, mind you. Well played.A powerful company culture is like a lovely patina on a brass adornment — its allure has been created by the quality of the underlying brass and its richness by the passage and handling of time.It becomes stronger and more alluring with the passage of time. It has a thousand parents. Everyone’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon.You don’t “read” the culture, you know it, you feel it, you live it.You can’t just manufacture it on a long weekend.But, hey, I could surely be wrong..

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Beautifully expressed, JLM.Culture – to permeate and be effective – also requires leadership with intelligence, charisma, and integrity.

    2. Cam MacRae

      A powerful company culture is like a lovely patina on a brass adornment — its allure has been created by the quality of the underlying brass and its richness by the passage and handling of time.Poetic bastard.(I realise some of my antipodean friends may not be familiar with such a fruity term of endearment. In the interest of cultural sensitivity I apologise; unfortunately my preferred term of endearment is entirely verboten in the US of A.)

      1. JamesHRH

        @jlm agreed, this is awfully good, above even your typical, extremely high standard of phrase turning.

    3. Tom Labus

      What are your thoughts on Ryan?

      1. JLM

        .Strange comment to follow.Ryan reminds me of @fredwilson:disqus — nice guy, incredibly knowledgeable about his area of expertise, incredibly articulate without proselytizing, generous of spirit, able to disagree without being disagreeable, living a clean family life, not a whiff of scandal and a powerful, natural speaker.He will be President in our life times.Disagree with his policies and all these favorable views will still exist.Therein lies the impediment to progress, we cannot disagree without becoming disagreeable.As an example — I am fervently in favor of universal health care but I don’t think Obamacare is the right answer.Ryan is so damn articulate and knows those budget numbers so cold — Chmn House Budget Comm — that there is not another person in the US who could hang with him on the structure and content of the budget.Deer in the headlights look on his opponents faces.The Biden-Ryan debate will be called in a first minute TKO under the Mercy Rule. Don’t dally making the popcorn because the fight will be over in the first round.One guy knows the economy, one guy knows the budget and legislative process — these guys could be good.We shall see..

        1. William Mougayar

          You don’t think Obama might replace Biden with Clinton as a running mate?

          1. JLM

            .Pres Obama is intellectually exhausted. He is out of his depth on the economy, jobs, messaging and plan.The negative ads to define Romney this summer have fizzled. Nobody is paying attention. Obama now has real money problems.Neither Romney or Ryan have been divorced, so WTF is Axelrod going to do?Why is he spending 3 days in Iowa with 6 electoral votes. That is nuts — 5% of the remaining time until the election for 6 electoral votes that he may already own.He should be in Ohio, Virginia, Florida.He does not have the cojones to replace Biden and, if he did, it is not a two hand dunk shot. Lots of folks will look at it as a desperate move. If so, he should have done it 6 months ago.Hillary is not going to jump under the bus herself. She will not likely run a Hail Mary pattern just for the asking — particularly if the desperation translates to a barbed wire enema.She has a lot to lose — a legacy as a “good” Sec of State or as an after thought ass clown desperation play. She could return to the Senate. Bill Clinton is not going to sully his reputation — he will HAVE to campaign for Hillary but not for Obama regardless of what he says.The American electorate votes for the top of the ticket not for VP.I think it’s for Romney to lose right now. I am not fully objective..

          2. fredwilson

            you are an optimist. Obama’s campaign has distilled this election down to a cynical analytical targeted effort to win just the right votes in just the the right states. this is not about anything other than getting re-elected. it is ugly to me on many levels. but i am also fairly confident it will work.

          3. JLM

            .Guilty as charged. I love America and I want an America for the future that is as good as its people. I’d cut a pinkie off to have that America (left hand).This election will mirror the Reagan-Carter election — well liked incumbent but flawed ruler. Bad, ill considered policies which cannot be defended.In much the same way that Hamilton Jordon, Jodie Powell and Jack Watson could pull the rabbit out of the hat the first election and could not find the hat the second time around — Plouffe, Axelrod, et al, cannot marshal the same Perfect Storm.Hope and change have been retired.Ohio (Republican Gov Kasich), Florida (Republican Senator Rubio), Virginia (Republican Gov McDonnell), Wisconsin (Republican Gov Walker, VP candidate Ryan), North Carolina (huge Amendment One majority and grass roots organization) and Colorado (gun control) will spell victory for R & R.The Democrats need to retreat to trying to hold the Senate..

          4. JamesHRH

            I think @fredwilson is right.Reagan swamped Carter by winning over Reagan Dems – who are now known as independent voters. In Vanity Fair – of all places – an excellent article on The Flip: 50 years ago, Reps defended the status quo & Dems were the radicals, demanding change. Now, it is the opposite.The safe vote for an Indept is Dem – keep the entitlements, back the humanistic candidate (not the robot) & stay the Richard Koo ‘do not balance the books in a balance sheet recession’ course.Axelrod – who is a genius IMO – maybe pissed that governing BHO has been such a lame, timid, ‘I want people on The Hill to like me’ milquetoast, but he will find a note ( likely that one involving the dehumanizing aspects of R&R’s personalities ) that scares the middle towards the Pres.

          5. JLM

            .Having actually voted for Reagan, I can tell you with some assurance that the so called Reagan Democrat did not exist in the Reagan – Carter matchup, they were the result of that election.Reagan had originally been a Democrat and was disaffected by that party. The folks who came with him were similarly disaffected. They came with Reagan because he had toured the country for years as a spokesman for Westinghouse and had had years to develop and burnish his governing philosophy.Remember Reagan had been a twice elected popular Republican Governor of California.Carter, who was very intelligent, was a trade school grad — Annapolis — who was a popular Georgia Governor but whose policies were based upon accepting outcomes.Carter of the sweater clad faux FDR fireside chat who directed us to turn down our thermostats (“eat your peas” being the current equivalent) and who told us that America was not exceptional and could not aspire to greatness.Reagan told us we were a shining city on a hill, the last best hope for mankind and that we were not better off than we were when Carter was elected.Carter lead all the polls until 10 days before the election and Reagan trounced him as every independent broke for Reagan. They broke from Carter and defaulted to Reagan.These, in part, were the Reagan Democrats who trounced Mondale in the second Reagan election..

          6. JamesHRH

            Two words: Ayn Rand.

          7. JamesHRH

            Carter’s view was not the mainstream, I agree.The issue is: can Axelrod paint R&R as slaves to the bottom line, soulless numbers driven technocrats, who will balance the books and damn the consequences. Oh, & you will pay the price (if Ryan is independently wealthy somehow, this is a cake walk.Ayn Rand individualism is the extreme concept now. America is moving towards connectedness and community, IMO.

          8. JLM

            .Carter was individually a very nice guy and had had lots of business experience. He was not a natural leader and he was willing to “settle” rather than to fight for excellence. It was all temperament.What crushed Carter was the results. The Carter Malaise. The Reagan mantra was — “are you better off today than you were four years ago?”I can still hear Reagan saying that in my head. I was in my 20s and it was the first election that I ever really paid attention to.Axelrod has had almost the entire summer to try and get a coat of paint on Romney to no real result. He has pissed away a lot of money and he has played every card he has. No real traction. The polls show that to be the case.It will be the Reagan question — are you better off; and, the economy and the budget.I think that paying too much attention to Ryan is a tactical error as it makes it a two on one contest and Biden adds nothing to the fray.Ayn Rand has been around for a long, long, long time and one has to read to actually get it. There is no evidence that the American electorate actually reads anything — witness that every perceived flaw in Obama’s governance is in his books.I have read them several times each and am amazed that people think they “discover” that he has a penchant for “redistribution” — it’s in his books.There is a huge difference between what the American electorate and the American people are doing. Oddly two different groups though the same folks..

          9. JamesHRH

            Last paragraph is bang on.I have read Obama’s book (once only). I read it more (and this is my view) that protecting the lowest economic rung of the ladder keeps the entire ladder from being set ablaze.If I lose my job working for you, I lose my health insurance. I am exposed and may then become ill (which I will then be in a tough spot to recover from). A temporary setback runs the risk of creating someone who is permanently disenfranchised.It is the anarchy underlying Ayn Rand.

          10. Dave W Baldwin

            You make best points JLM. @fredwilson:disqus, if Paul Ryan were to run around and make claims that we can hypnotize gay folk and turn ’em into straight (kinda like Bachman) I’d say he’s a nut… but JLM is right, gay marriage is going to have to be handled right rather than slammed down the throat, like Obamacare. Also, Fred, remember that Obama and Biden come from the Senate, that hasn’t passed a budget. Ryan is going to have to push forward that fact. If Romney can stop sounding like he’s worried everyone thinks Ryan is the candidate for Prez, then it is push forward time. The shame of it all is both Obama and Romney stutter when answering.We’ll see if it comes down to Electoral College mathematics this time around.

          11. JLM

            .IMHO the Obama campaign is fingerpainting v Michelangelo with Ryan on the budget.He has almost 20 years of budget experience and the best budget staff in the country.He IS the Budget Committee Chairman and that is not chopped liver.He will be delivering some pretty fiercesome lessons on the issue of the budget.Romney on the economy. Ryan on the budget and legislative process. Pretty damn good tag team..

          12. William Mougayar

            I agree with every part of what you said more than you agreed with yourself. Now, back to our regular programming on company Culture 🙂

          13. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            that is good analysis. Most of the headlines I have read have not been favourable of the Ryan’s pick as VP candidate but you make solid points. The budget is a mainstream topic and I think the American public is paying close attention to it

          14. JLM

            .Journalism has died in the US and is getting ready to be buried.There is no objective reporting on anything.We have 1 in 5 of our countrymen unemployed or underemployed.The President has made war on wealth (success) and small business while pimping them like a big dog for campaign contributions.The Perfect Storm has blown through and the record of deficits, spending, budget (lack thereof), unemployment, credit downgrade, welfare dependency, food stamps — the list goes on — is not a record that one can run on successfully.Nobody is better off today than 4 years ago.This may turn out to be a landslide of Reagan-Carter proportions. Carter had a lead at this time in that election.Nobody is home in Washington. They are all out campaigning. Joe Biden is in charge — does that scare you?.

        2. Tom Labus

          I like the fact that Ryan is a well defined opponent and he wouldn’t bob and weave and that will get him knocked out by the third round.Mr Krugman considers the Ryan Budget both a fraud and a fantasy and I have to agree with him.Biden will run rings around Ryan on foreign policy.

          1. JLM

            .Ryan has a huge advantage — he actually has a budget to champion and it has twice passed the House. Advantage Ryan.He is an assassin cold fiscal mechanic who knows his subject in a degree of intimate detail unrivaled or unmatched by anyone else.Nobody has a perfect budget but to deal with the third rail of American politics — entitlements — is to have real courage. Ryan has that courage.Ryan has been routinely re-elected in a Democratic district which was carried by Obama. He must be doing something right.Biden would not run rings around my Tsi Shu on anything.He is a complete undistinguished ass clown — the President’s own opinion, I am sure — whose claim to fame is that he is able to identify which Amtrak station to get off and on and not a whole lot else.Biden counseled against the killing of OBL the crowning achievement of BHO’s foreign policy..

          2. Cam MacRae

            The killing of Bin Laden may be the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy from an internal political perspective, but externally not so much.The US had established a working relationship with an incredibly unstable and corrupt nuclear power — a power that is infinitely more dangerous than Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran ever were — and that relationship is now at historic lows.I’m eternally glad for OBL’s terminal lead poisoning, and am in awe of the those operators who fulfilled the mission, but in no measure should it be considered a foreign policy success.Edit: That said, I can’t think of a single foreign policy triumph of the current administration.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            Krugman was a scourge of hundreds of billions of dollar deficits under Bush and has been a cheerleader of trillion dollar+ deficits under Obama. We need a Republican in the White House so Krugman will start championing deficit reduction again.

        3. fredwilson

          i am a fan of his commitment to balancing the budget. and i am not that concerned how he gets there. because i’d rather have our country be solvent than win a debate about how we get there.i really want to like the guy for all of the reasons you cite.but his approach to women’s issues, gay issues, etc are really bothersome to me. why would he care about stuff like that?

          1. JLM

            .I suspect that in America today, we are very close to a consensus that the concept of “deficit finance” has simply got to stop. States can’t do it nor can counties or cities.This is basic agnostic financial management. The numbers do not have a party affiliation.The calculus of what happens when you unleash growth by lowering taxes, reducing regulation and simplifying rules is no longer as advanced as it was once upon a time. Kennedy’s ideas are good enough for me.As to social issues, I suspect that Paul Ryan’s faith rules his mind on abortion and that gay marriage is an unwinnable quest.The gay marriage question has been put to voters 32 times and has lost 32 times. The issue is not a winner and will likely cost the Pres the election.Marriage is also a religious issue..

          2. fredwilson

            Then a pox on his house. I don’t like the guy.

          3. JLM

            .Fred, you may disagree with the guy but you are way too fair and classy to reject him in toto because you have singular issues — even vitally important ones — upon which you disagree in the present. The present.In the future, abortion will become rare, very rare and almost unheard of while gay marriage will become a non-issue. Even today, “marriage” v “contract” what is really the difference?Still people will have differing opinions.The guy sleeps in his office on a cot and goes home every weekend to see his family.How can you not like that?.

          4. fredwilson

            If he puts his personal religious beliefs ahead of what is right for the country then he is not suited to lead our country

          5. JLM

            .Way too strident.Slavery was wrong. It was the law of the land. One had a safe harbor in the law. It was wrong nonetheless. You could refuse to think and instead run to the safe harbor. But could you really?What would you and I have done were we born in that time period? Would we have owned slaves? Would we have not owned slaves? Would we have opposed slavery openly?Eventually we would have come to the view that slavery was wrong and had been outlawed. But would we have embraced it or would we have simply said the law has changed?I would hope that I would be strong enough to oppose what I knew was wrong and to have tried to change the law. I don’t know.In our times today, abortion is legal. Is it right?If one thinks it is not right, then should they be taking action to change the law? Why not?We are complex organisms and we should not try to judge circumstances by a single indicator..

          6. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Eloquent – whether correct or not :)A single indicator could be an absolute – but it is a matter of faith to decide whether it is or not – otherwise agree 100%I suppose this opens the possibility that @fredwilson is putting his faith in his intrepretation of what is right before the interests of the nation – NO offense fred – I just see the logical postion

          7. JamesHRH

            Interesting choice of issues.Slavery is purely an issue of exploitation by a dominant social group.Abortion rests on the far, far more subjective issue of ‘when does life start’[email protected] has the key point here – religion trumping duty = unfit for office.We have Sikh members of Canada’s RCMP who want to alter the uniform due to religious beliefs. I think it is the same – service in te RCMP is a privilege, not a right. If you can’t fulfill the role, life is not fair, find another avenue for your energies.

          8. JLM

            .The public policy issue has absolutely nothing to do with religion as you rightly indicate.I am opposed to abortion and I have been a Catholic, Episcopalian and a wandering Southern Baptist (not even knowing that the church I was attending was a member of the SB Synod, go figure).To arrive at my belief, I have not had to consult any religion. Though religious teachings have influenced my personal values and I am proud of that fact.I simply believe that absent external interference a fertilized egg becomes a life and I am not willing to substitute my judgment for God’s. I am God fearing.In my insignificant existence on this planet and as part of God’s plan, I am not bold enough to substitute my judgment for God’s. And I am not willing to risk being wrong.It does not cramp my ability to deal with other public policy issues or to deal with those folks who do not agree with my personal beliefs.That belief does not in any way disqualify my right — not my ability, my right — to participate in the workings of our democracy.Not to put too fine a point on this but this policy is the work product of a Supreme Court who has found it necessary to re-visit and change its rulings from time to time.It is the work of flawed and imperfect men. Like me. We are often wrong..

          9. fredwilson

            the reason i am a liberal and not a conservative are these very issues. i agree with the GOP on most things economic. although i would raise taxes on the wealthy and at the same time take a big whack on entitlements. but when it comes to social issues like a woman’s right to control her own body and a person’s right to love whomever they want, i cannot and will not tolerate the positions the GOP takes. that’s why i will proudly pull the lever for Obama even though I agree with many of the things you say about him.

          10. JLM

            .Not to blow sunshine up your skirt but what you are is neither a liberal nor a conservative, you are that rarest of men who is a “thinker” able to have nuanced positions on issues that prevent you from being knee jerk categorized as an “anything”.You are truly independent and thus any other thinker would be encouraged to debate the real issues rather than to draw you into a political genus and classification.I cannot tell you the number of times I have disagreed with my Republican friends on issues such as immigration — I hold to the “sometimes you can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube school of amnesty” — and education — most liberal policy possible as long as we are not producing more poets.No governing philosophy should take pride in the ability to draw support from people who do not think and lose the participation of those who advance ideas rather than just pulling levers.While I recognize that it can be good politics to drive wedge issues, I decry the use of social issues as wedge issues. Recognizing that it is very good electoral, vote counting politics because the Republicans always win on gun control, abortion and gay marriage.The Democrats will lose NC on the recent Amendment One vote.They win the elections but they do not win the test of logic.Thought will continue to evolve as long as we let ideas wrestle..

          11. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            @fredwilson:disqusI sympathise with the strength of your beliefs and am generally closer to your politics but would observe that you may be wrapped up in a logical fallacy (however irritating it may be for me to point this out).If he holds any view to be truly righteous in an absolute sense, he cannot believe that professing this can ever be wrong for his country or for indeed anything else.The point here is that any faith in an absolute, must result in absolutism. It is at least reasonable (if arguable) that respecting an absolute love is a pre-requisite for acting lovingly.So whether he is actually faithful is not for me to judge, but I hope you see the fine point that though he may be mistaken, this is not the same as putting his faith before his country – he might argue “robustly” that this is by definition impossible.

          12. JamesHRH

            No sane person – American or not – wants an evangelical, ‘righteousness – based’ President. If that is who he is, he is not fit to be VP & it will cost Romney the election.I agree w @fredwilson.

          13. JLM

            .VP not President.The problem today is that any evidence of religion — even the tiniest modicum — is viewed by some folks, not all folks, as being evangelical.Most folks who would use that term in a pejorative manner have never met an evangelical Christian.When Kennedy was elected President his Catholicism was quite controversial in much the same way as the Rev Wright – Obama connection.He gave a famous speech disavowing any control by the Pope over his (Kennedy’s) politics. To practicing Catholics of the day, it was patently silly.The speech was quite similar to Obama’s Rev Wright speech.You could not possibly find two more religiously disconnected men than Kennedy and Obama.We have more to fear from a President’s notions of the Federal Reserve than his views on religion.Ryan is a quite traditional Roman Catholic with an adherence to the teachings of that religion and in a most unremarkable manner. There is not a shred of evidence of his being in any manner different than John Kennedy.And yet, America’s churches and synagogues and mosques are full on days of worship.Our country was founded “under God” and was based upon the recognition that all of the unalienable rights enjoyed by free citizens were granted by God..

          14. JamesHRH

            I am humbled by the complexity of the universe & my role in it.God fearing just is not for me.Ryan’s faith looks to be a non issue – but his devotion to Ayn Rand is te hanging curveball that Axelrodd will hit into the upper deck.

          15. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Err humility – Not so much !

          16. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            @jameshrh:disqus – your statement is sweeping.Righteousness – is acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin ; morally right or justifiable, Wikipedia associates this with rectitude.Whether morals, laws, rights or simple justification – it would be insane NOT to want this.A discussion could ask how to determine righteous from a subjective start position. Perhaps it depends on true dilemmas such as right to life vs right to choice (can either be sweepingly 100% right? – I don’t know)To claim that a persons preference or opinion can show de-facto insanity is judgemental beyond the bizarre or the hater , it disqualifies you .You then add an ad-hominem attack which is puerile, achieves nothing and surely does not ingratiate. And is in no way argued.BTW – “evangelical”, most dictionaries assert as an inherently protestant position which also makes your comment not only wholly untenable, unfounded and irrational, but ensures that it sails right past the mark !

          17. JamesHRH

            Anybody who is arrogant enough to believe that they are ‘free from guilt or sin’ (infallible) is unfit to be President.I am not invested enough to have researched a congressman from Ohio – the attack is not puerile at all.Interestingly enough, JLM & the mainstream media (CBC in Canada) are filling me in.

          18. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            @jameshrh:disqusIf he professes any form of Christianity, he de-facto confesses he can never be free from sin (absent redemption) and acknowledges his absolute fallibility – That is pretty much the definition of what it is to be Christian.BTW if he confesses without hypocrisy “I am a miserable sinner” – then I won’t deny him that, will you ?To pursue righteousness is surely to make efforts to avoid those acknowledged sins. If this is not the case then we are reading a different book.You defend a personal attack as not puerile, simply by virtue of your not being “invested enough” to bother to know what you are talking about.I will take that as an admission.

          19. JamesHRH

            You must win a lot of arguments (in your mind) using the ‘I will take that as….’ approach!Two types of people scare me: people who think they are God (infallible) and people who have God on speed dial (‘personal relationship with God’, constant reference to every decision they make being God’s will, evangelical need to ‘save’).I did make a mistake – my puerile attack on Ryan was neither puerile nor an attack. it was a hypothesis. Evangelical anything scares the middle of the US electorate was the point. IF Ryan is evangelical about the numbers, free choice or Catholicism, he is wide open for attack.The pursuit of righteousness (admirable) is not the same as righteousness (deadly). just as the pursuit of happiness is not the same as happiness.Righteous leaders run cults. The world can’t afford to have the US turn into a cult.

          20. fredwilson

            which is why i reject all orthodoxy. orthodoxy is the root of all evil on earth.

          21. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Hmm – not much wriggle room there !1952 Dwight Eisenhower interpreted the Founding Fathers of 1776 as follows:’ “all men are endowed by their Creator.” In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men created equal.’ (from Wikipedia)I think this rules out “inherently better by virtue of adherence to particular doctrine”.But some faiths see Grace as the source of sanctity rather than orthodoxical adherence.I agree it is not for humans to do the judging.

          22. fredwilson

            i’ll stand by my comment.

          23. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Good – I would expect nothing less 🙂

          24. JamesHRH

            This is a tough one for me. Isn’t the USV investment thesis a form of orthodoxy?Some principles to follow are helpful. Principles are orthodoxy, no?

          25. Dave Pinsen

            By picking Ryan, Romney has lashed his campaign to the cause of reining in federal spending. If Romney-Ryan lose in November, no one in either party is going to address this problem again until an acute crisis forces them to, and by that time, the adjustments needed will be harsher than anything proposed so far.I understand your concern about Justices who don’t share your views on social issues being appointed to the Supreme Court, but, as you know, the Senate gets to vote on them. So why not consider voting for Romney-Ryan at the top of the ticket, as a vote for fiscal restraint, and voting for Gillibrand’s reelection to the Senate, as a vote for liberal positions on social issues?

          26. fredwilson

            i cannot vote for intolerance and the GOP is the home of it.

          27. PhilipSugar

            That sounds like a pretty intolerant statement. You’ll note I almost never weigh in on political issues. Living in a small state I have friends on both sides of the aisle. What makes me sad is seeing the vitriolic nature of politics today. I get emails from both party chairpersons and they disgust me.

          28. JamesHRH

            The discourse is too coarse, for sure.

          29. Dave Pinsen

            There is some intolerance on both ends of the political spectrum, unfortunately.

          30. Marjan Ghara

            Agree with Fred. Just look at Iran to see what happens when those that lead the country, put their religious beliefs first.

          31. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Have you been there ? Do you know who was empowered and by whom?In 1953 Iran became an authoritarian regime, following a coup d’état instigated by the UK and US. Growing dissent with foreign influence culminated during the Iranian Revolution which led to establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.Plant a seed, reap a harvest.I consider totalitarianism pretty frightening, When a country espouses right by might, detains without trial, tortures, and uses anonymous video controlled weapons that kill “collaterals”, it completely loses the high-ground to preach about values in other lands.The US is a great country, and could be a fantastic power for good but currently it burns food as fuel (by statute) while people starve.That is vile.

          32. Marjan Ghara

            I am originally from there and have been there recently.I was just merely stating the fact the current Islamic Regime, uses their religious righteousness to rule right by might, detain without trial, torture their own people … and beyond. Who gives them a right to stone women to death for alleged adultery? Their religious beliefs! We can all believe in our own God but to use organized religion as a moral compass to govern is a dangerous proposition.And US is a great country. Separation of “Church” & State is what I advocate.

          33. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            @marjanghara:disqus – Great robust answer – respect :)I totally agree on separation of church and state, if only because the contrary assumes the choice of a church which is not easy !But stately righteousness or rampant nationalism of egotistic dictatorships can be just as dangerous, look also at National Socialism or Stalinism & totalitarian regimes through history.Corruption emanates most surely from unaccountable power. I don’t think this is unique to religion (though it is also rampant there).For the record – no belief gives a “right” to stone someone to death. I hope though I very much doubt I would have the courage to die for my convictions to stop this occurring.I suppose in theory I only know this in a cultural context ( in which I am very secure). That is why I should not harm others to enforce my beliefs – they may be wrong !When brutal wars are fought hand-to-hand – war is hated at first hand and with greater clarity. The problem is that unfettered power does not answer to abstract reason.

          34. JLM

            .Any comparison of the Ayatollahs and the American concept of no national religion fails on its face.Iran masks as a democracy with sham elections in which the ultimate power is held by the Ayatollahs regardless of the outcome of the elections.Iran is literally a theocracy though its leadership is evil, venal and poses as a legitimate religion. They use murder, rape and torture as tools of governance without any semblance of due process.People misinterpret the Constitutional notion of Church & State. It is not about “separation” it is about not having a state sponsored religion in knee jerk reaction to the English Anglican Church of the King whose oppression lead to the Revolution.Our currency says “In God We Trust” and our Constitution enumerates and protects rights which are given by our Creator as the basis for the Nation’s very existence..

          35. Marjan Ghara

            JLM, with all due respect, but God and Religion are two different things. Happy to take this debate off-line!

          36. Carl Rahn Griffith

            It’s as if secularism never happened. Scary.

          37. JamesHRH

            Reducing deficit, yes. Balanced budget, no.Way different allocations – goodbye entitlements, hello investments – yes, yes, yes.

        4. Dave W Baldwin

          This morning (Tue) I realized the danger of this becoming Clinton vs Dole since Ryan is a protege of Kemp and Romney is boring.

          1. JLM

            .I agree with you.You have to remember that the Clinton Economy (Gingrich Congress) was booming. Booming. Some of the best years in the history of the US.Booming economies never turn out incumbents.The economy is not booming and Romney is no Dole.Focusing on Ryan is a huge mistake tactically. He is not running for President, so even if you stifle him, you don’t touch the top of the ticket and you have to commit more resources.Kemp was one of the brightest and most practical leaders from the perspective of the economic notion of governing. He was not viewed as being extreme — his NFL popularity, perhaps?Romney is more than a bit stiff but the electorate may be ready for “steady” and he is steady. He really is that accomplished CEO and he is not a natural glad hander.I actually think the election has already been decided. Not a single Obama special interest group is as large or as enthusiastic as the 2008 election and the Perfect Storm has passed..

          2. Dave W Baldwin

            You are right. They need to get back to the pie becoming bigger instead of only one size that has to be divided. Trying to say it any other way invites the drum beat of envy.

          3. JLM

            .The Clinton success was created by only controlling the RATE OF GROWTH and not even really controlling spending.If we were to do that, the boat would come up keel down and the wind would fill our sails and we would be wing & wing toward a robust economy.It would be so easy to slash spending and improve revenue with just a bit of cheerleading.You can’t do it if you are making war on the job creators or attempting to demean them or falsely attributing credit..

          4. Dave W Baldwin

            Yup. The message has to be positive and inspiring.

  14. Vooza

    We totally agree with your assessment. Culture has been a huge part of our success. You have to wear humble shoes at Vooza. We even made a video that explains our culture to the world: http://watch.vooza.com/post

  15. Gregory Brooks

    I love the upside down pyramid visual. We have always had a sign that states: “1) User 2) Us”, but I think the upside down pyramid helps defines the “us” in greater detail.

  16. markjosephson

    Scott, great to see this thread. I thought I would share the Core Values & Operating Principles doc (complete with talking points) we had for Outside.in.Link to full content here: http://j.mp/NysOY0You can clearly see what we Adapted and Adopted from the About work.In retrospect, I wish we had boiled these down a bit more.m<<< note that i am editing this to remove the detail and here is a link to the full content: http://j.mp/NysOY0>&gt;

    1. fredwilson

      i like how culture can be exported to new companies from older onesi see a lot of google’s culture at foursquare for exampleand clearly you took a lot of about’s culture into outside.in

      1. JLM

        .That is an extremely interesting and insightful observation.The culture is moving with the people. This completely supports that it is the inner core of the team from whence the culture emanates. From their hearts and their heads.I have done a number of turnarounds and I can say that realigning the culture is often the easiest part of the equation..

  17. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Great post thanks – and really well timed for us – it leads to a particular question.Consider a team that grew 3 – 8 in the last six months, putting it in Fred’s “accidental culture window” if typical, but somewhat volatile due to pace of change. Then assume cultural fit was vetting point #1 even above competence for any hire in so far as it can be ascertained.If the new team members are “more mature” and highly respected in their fields (captains of industry / senior government advisers / world class scientists), the company will feel very privileged to have brought them in and understand they bring own expectations and culture.So I wonder if maturity and experience of a team given mutual trust and respect is an adequate proxy for culture, or does the very strength of a team and the individual characters (not exactly pushovers) actually mean this “accidental culture window” closes rather earlier in this situation?

    1. JLM

      .I think what you are observing is a “melding” of cultures. The culture already exists even if reduced to a single Father Superior..

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Haha – I was never referred to by that particular epithet before – though too many others !However to your point – I very much hope so – only time will tell – and a little vigilance perhaps !

  18. Jeff Barrett

    Culture documents are a light bulb, they allow people to gather around, get interested and have a common starting point. They point out shadows in the culture, they also allow reflection and mirrors to hide behind.Changing culture is just as hard as changing the proverbial light bulb, hence the desire to get it right from the start. Measuring the effectiveness of the current cultural light is harder.Culture is regulation and standardization, parental figures, idioms close to that of faith and thus cannot be taken lightly and cannot be faked. Many psychotics can fit into the cultural fabric, it is all a matter of what damage they cause as they leak into the culture. The strength of a culture is not just in its definition but in its defense, in part it is how one defends a culture while it is forming without preventing newcomers to walk the path and norm to it.Culture will happen any way, it is human in nature. So yeah define it and reduce the cost of changing it, but also figure out how you will measure it.When your bootstrapping a culture everyone on the team must be relatively self aware and psychologically balanced. It is this criteria that is a fun challenge to identify during the interview process. The way you identify these aspects is also a great pointer as to how you will measure your culture internally. Interviewing and cultural success are tightly coupled in that regard.

    1. JLM

      .You make some keen insights. Very well played.I suspect that there are some easily identified basic cultural values that are common to all cultural regimens.As an example — “Fellows, what say you about including a spot of “integrity”?”In this manner, there is often a roadmap which only has to have the local arteries added to provide a complete picture.You raise a great point — why do we do it this way?You have to be able to defend why things are done a certain way or be able to adapt on the fly. Adaptability not being a bad trait given the pace of the world and innovation these days, eh?.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        @JLM – On a most serious note (for me).It is of essence that ethical integrity and honour integrity are two very different concepts – despite their common root.They are often blurred as a convenience and the rot once it starts takes some stopping.To show “honour among thieves”, and not cross the “thin blue line” that says “you don’t inform on your mates” shows integrity and a form of honour in a sense understood amongst a “band of brothers” or college fraternity. This is consistent with hatred of “internal affairs” , the “military police” & similar SEC type “checks and balances” in anti-fraud positions.But though they indicate an absolute integrity in this limited sense; the absence of honour in a common ethical sense, can they lead to persecution of the righteous “whistle-blower”.Note I am the personal witness to a whistle-blowing case being heard at High Court level in the UK regarding systematic medical procedural abuses by individuals in highest authority in our National Health Service. I (as personal witness) am privy to documents that show that some people will literally allow the systematic deaths of innocent others (children) to continue to protect their own financial and political interests. – To put it simplistically this raises my ire !

      2. Jeff Barrett

        @JLM Thanks.Yes I very much agree that there are common cultural values. I think region plays an important role in the culture of a company. Culture is in no small part a series of layers.A potential issue with rapid adaptation is it can happen fast enough where you go in circles. The fastest adaptation is at its best only survival in the current, to survive and create a new territory you have sustain being outside the curve of adaptation.The key once again is measurement, you have to measure adaptation to know if your ahead, behind, or comfortably in the realm of new territory.It seems that there are many things that are achieved by only walking the path. You may very well add some more detail to the map you follow while walking, but ultimately you have to walk it to get to the destination.In regards to engendering trust within an organization, a great but tricky interview question, how do you define living within ones means?

        1. JLM

          .There is a lot in life that can be achieved by conducting “experiments” to see how they fit. At the end of the day, marketing is often driven by a series of experiments.As to “region” that is a very interesting observation.When I was in the Army, the best soldiers were Southerners who had grown up in small towns or on ranches/farms. I used to go get replacements and would ask who had ever tended milk cows, been a cowman or worked hay.I took those guys..

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Brilliant – I make it my business to help bringing in hay when asked by a neighbour (Typically four or five days per summer). It benefits me and him and is a heck of a lot cheaper than a gym. I respect people who work the land – because for any wealth there is a pre-requisite of excess harvest over hunger – Food comes first.I also think the issue of corn to ethanol in the US has some ethically explosive considerations that may really hurt US interests globally if not addressed fast.If starvation can be directly coupled to driving an SUV a few unnecessary miles there is scope for hatred.On a lighter note – we are in mountainous terrain so much is by hand. Saturday we were bailing – but the lake swim afterwards was better than a cold beer 🙂

  19. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Talking about culture. Sometimes self constraint is very valid and sometimes not necessary. Sometimes it’s also OK to make a decision for someone else so…Can we all shout one out for @falicon whose wife Catherine is promoting Breast Cancer AwarenessA lot of people visit this blog and I am sure @fredwilson wont mind me linking here – If you agree that culture is important then every one of you please go to this page – promote it and/or better yet donate.http://www.ysctourdepink.or…So yup sometimes I’m a bit of a loud mouth – and sometimes it feels good !

    1. William Mougayar

      Kudos to Catherine of course, and James you bring up a very good point about the culture at AVC. As a special community, we have a culture of our own. It would be interesting to document this culture and the culture of online communities in general. What we stand for allows for these types of personal deviations. At various times, AVC is like a family, a powerful advocate machine, a rich debating forum, a testing ground for companies or products, a village, a global oasis or a happy bar.

  20. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    HOW GRIMLOCK HIRES:5 SECONDS INTO INTERVIEW, GET FULL DOSE OF GRIMLOCK IN FACE.CONTINUES UNTIL CANDIDATE BREAKS, OR PUNCHES BACK WITH FIRE IN EYE AND SAYS “MORE.”IT CREATE OPT IN CULTURE. SO FAR WORK PERFECTLY.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      So finally FG wrote something so very funny that I literally laughed out loud. This one is going on the office wall somewhere.”More” please !

  21. georgebc

    I think Johnson & Johnson’s credo is well stated (particularly in how they order their priorities). I also like that it was written in 1943, well before these sorts of things became widespread.It is available at http://www.jnj.com/connect/…. Since they only have seem them in a PDF available on that page, I have pasted them below.________________Our CredoWe believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality.We must constantly strive to reduce our costs in order to maintain reasonable prices.Customers’ orders must be serviced promptly and accurately.Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.We are responsible to our employees, the men and women who work with us throughout the world.Everyone must be considered as an individual.We must respect their dignity and recognize their merit.They must have a sense of security in their jobs.Compensation must be fair and adequate, and working conditions clean, orderly and safe.We must be mindful of ways to help our employees fulfill their family responsibilities.Employees must feel free to make suggestions and complaints.There must be equal opportunity for employment, development and advancement for those qualified.We must provide competent management, and their actions must be just and ethical.We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well.We must be good citizens – support good works and charities and bear our fair share of taxes.We must encourage civic improvements and better health and education.We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.Our final responsibility is to our stockholders.Business must make a sound profit.We must experiment with new ideas.Research must be carried on, innovative programs developed and mistakes paid for.New equipment must be purchased, new facilities provided and new products launched.Reserves must be created to provide for adverse times.When we operate according to these principles, the stockholders should realize a fair return.

  22. JamesHRH

    Best point here is tat culture is like a shadow……you have one, whether you know it or not & it stretches very far at the beginning or end of the day.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. stockman’s become a radical in his old age.

        1. fredwilson

          a carbon tax, right?

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            A call to the nominally conservative to practice conservatism is interesting.If fossil fuel represents a reserve asset class, it makes sense to see it on the face of the books. We do not.If depleting “common” reserves is contrary to the common good (which is now near universally stipulated) , those that benefit from the activity might reasonably be asked to make good their spoil. They are not.On the contrary, they are rewarded for so doing.So if the term “republic” may indicate ‘rule by many people and by law’ then Republicans are not republican unless Conservatives conserve.

          2. laurie kalmanson

            pollution, the environment, the health of the planet are all excluded from classical economics; the benefits are public, private business lobbies against the dollar costs, and the congress is enslaved to those who pay

      1. laurie kalmanson

        stockman recanted on the fiction that was the reagan budget some time ago, and called the record deficit spending on the fantasy that was star wars irresponsible liesinteresting to see him call out ryan as a fabulist nowhttp://www.weeklystandard.c…Even more horrifying, in Stockman’s telling, was his boss, who refused to kick the snuffling porkers away from the trough. President Reagan was a dope. He was given to saying silly things to his budget director. One of the silly things that Reagan liked to say—over and over again—was “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.”Let this be a warning: Never try to tell a budget director that something isn’t a budget issue. He will write a book about you and reveal to the world that you are a dope.Stockman believed that increases in defense spending of the magnitude Reagan favored were unwise, “compared with the severity of the deficit we faced.” So he wanted to cut the increases proposed by Reagan’s defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger. This disagreement over defense spending was only one of many disagreements between boss and aide. But in light of present circumstances it is perhaps the most instructive, as more and more Republicans succumb to the Stockman temptation and insist on cutting defense spending to help balance the budget.For most of the first year of the Reagan administration Stockman and Weinberger engaged in bureaucratic warfare, each lobbing line-item rescissions and out-year projections at the other and then ducking for cover. Weinberger thought he was fulfilling one of Reagan’s campaign pledges, to rebuild the American military after a decade of parsimony that had emboldened our enemies. Stockman thought he was fulfilling one of Reagan’s campaign pledges too, to restore fiscal responsibility to the federal government after a generation of profligacy. At first Reagan failed to see that the two pledges had become irreconcilable. With his customary cheerful detachment he assumed the two fellas would work out their differences on their own.

  23. SomeGuy

    “The beatings will continue until morale improves”….You made some good points, but missed EVERYTHING. – Culture is organic. – Culture is self-forming and self-regulating. – Culture is NEVER imposed. It’s willfully followed. – Culture is embodied in it’s leaders.I should add, cultures that work.You seem to wrongly imply that you can will things into being. All that you’ll get is unhappy drones as employees.

  24. JLM

    .The greatest argument for health care is that employers own their employees problems and thus should minimize the long term cost to the company.I have provided health care insurance to my employees for a third of a century without government assistance. I am not really that altruistic or smart. I am pragmatic.Health care insurance is a bastardized concept in which the first dollar is being perused when, in fact, it should be after the tires have been rotated or replaced, the oil has been changed, the filters have been replaced and the car has been washed — figuratively speaking, mind you.It should not be a political issue..

  25. PhilipSugar

    Could not agree more with how backwards the health care system is. Calling it “insurance” is a completely wrong. Insurance is where you pay a premium to cover against a named loss. Paying for primary care and prescription drugs is a complete farce. Worse it perpetuates the belief that somewhere there is this pot of money that it magically comes out of. I’ve told engineers that we don’t have dental “insurance” because its better for me to pay an extra $1k into a flexible spending account and have people pay their own. I’ve been shocked at the reaction of: I’d really just rather have dental “insurance”.

  26. JamesHRH

    In Canada, it’s called healthcare.

  27. LE

    “Paying for primary care and prescription drugs is a complete farce.”Ah yes. The living from paycheck to paycheck crowd and their entitlements.

  28. JLM

    .Not really. You overlook that I have routinely acted for over a third of a century whilst others have only talked.I think that real insurance — not health care but insurance for calamities just like auto insurance — should be a basic public service.It should be, like auto insurance, paid for by the individual. Everyone is entitled to be able to buy auto insurance — equality of opportunity — and everyone should be able to buy health insurance.There is no good reason why employers should be dragged into the mix.Employers do not directly provide unemployment insurance though they do pay part of the cost.Folks are allowing polarization to be created where it is simply not necessary..

  29. JLM

    .Worst dollar v first dollar.Calamity v routine..

  30. LE

    “I think that real insurance — not health care but insurance for calamities just like auto insurance”Of course you have to consider that the “maintenance” part of health care insurance (drugs and cheap visits) is simply a way to make sure that problems are diagnosed and treated early before they become bigger problems and cost more money. To all of us somehow some way because we aren’t going to let people die although we will prevent them from driving their cars if they fail inspection.A car getting dented is not the same as a disease not diagnosed until later because someone didn’t go to their primary care doctor when they didn’t want to spend the money.And this is the exact reason that many health plans will pay for birth control. It’s cheaper than paying for child birth and having to cover the costs of an extra person on the health plan. (Now I’ve always wondered of course why “family” plans cost the same whether you have 2 children or 9 but that’s for a different time. I guess that’s an artifact of a time when health care was so much cheaper or some christian or orthodox jewish thing to not disadvantage people from having large families.