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Understanding Culture

Ben Horowitz is coming out with his new book, What you do is who you are. The book is all about understanding culture and how one can cultivate a good culture at their company. In arguing that culture is not in the company's mission and the company's goals, he asks the following questions:

Is that phone call so important I need to return it today or can it wait till tomorrow? 
Can I ask for a raise before my annual review?
Is the quality of this document good enough or should I keep working on it?
Do I have to be on time for that meeting?
Should I stay at the Four Seasons or the Red Roof Inn?
When I negotiate this contract, what’s more important: the price or the partnership?
Should I point out what my peers do wrong or what they do right?
Should I go home at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m.?
How hard do I need to study the competition?
Should we discuss the color of this new product for five minutes or 30 hours?
If I know something is badly broken in the company, should I say something? Who should I tell?
Is winning more important than ethics?

The answers to these (and many other) questions reveal the culture of the company. Extrapolating this a little, the culture of our communities, of our families, etc can all be understood by a similar set of questions.

In essence, culture boils down to what we do when nobody is looking. That is, our default behaviour when we are in a certain environment.

I'm really looking forward to reading the book (I've pre-ordered it).

I've always approached changing the culture from a perspective of rational argument where people, when presented with two sides of the argument, will pick the better one.

But, in reality, there is no one option (or culture) that is objectively better than another. A culture simply is and is a collection of the dominant behaviours of the tribe - no right or wrong.

It is up to us to determine whether we are happy with the culture we are in, and if we aren't, to bring about a change. I'm hoping to get some ideas on how to do that by reading the book.

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