A short rant I thought about on my flight over to Asia. Several months ago, I met with a person who wanted me to pursue an opportunity with a company I felt had questionable culture. By questionable culture, I mean a reputation for dishonesty and CYA behavior amongst employees. Basically, a culture that leans more toward internal politics instead of kicking ass in the world. This person insisted that I simply join, work on cool technology, try to innovate, and not care about the culture. My rebuttal was that culture matters a ton if you want to innovate. Without a good culture, innovation is nearly impossible.
Company culture matters a great deal to me. I even wrote about this in 2013, in my “Culture Clubbed” post. I think what reminded me about this conversation was recently reading Ray Dalio’s masterpiece Principles. In the book, Dalio goes into how he built Bridgewater from nothing into one of the most important companies in the world, mainly by intensely focusing the company culture toward maximum output. Dalio succeeded in making culture his number one priority for Bridgewater, with an emphasis on transparency, candor, and assessing and combining personality types. The results speak for itself. I wish more companies should follow Dalio’s cultural model.
When someone tells me that culture doesn’t matter, I have to politely disagree. Especially in my field of technology, culture is everything. Technology is atypical from other industries, mainly because the good talent have unlimited options. Options are abundant, good cultures are not. Good talent combined with more good talent are innovation machines; the inverse is never true. Companies need to get culture right. In the end, culture is the most valuable intangible asset a company can invest in and grow.