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5 posts from April 2015

Why building a solid culture is tricky--what you say you believe doesn't matter.

As I build my understanding of leadership and customer experience, I'm frequently struck by leaders who struggle with the idea of culture. They want to extract the necessary culture to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, culture is so deeply rooted in the behavior of the leaders, that trying to manage it is challenging. Leaders have to manage themselves, model the behavior they want to see, and recognize it when performed by employees.  IStock_000022531940XSmall

Many people think good recruitment is the key to culture: 'just hire people with the right values.' Unfortunately, smart employees know how to express the values the company has already declared. In the hiring process, you have to look at how people are behaving, not what they say they believe. 

Culture is more about behavior than stated values. And a big company has thousands of behaviors every second. Culture is defined by the predominant behavior. 

Harvard Business Review: Why "Company Culture" Is a Misleading Term 2015-Apr-21 by John Traphagan

Today, the idea that organizations have cultures is rarely questioned by the media, by corporate executives, or by the consultants who make a living helping organizations improve their “cultures.” ... 

Within any group characterized as having a culture, there are numerous contested opinions, beliefs, and behaviors. People may align themselves to behave in a way that seems as though they buy into expressed corporate values and “culture,” but this is just as likely to be a product of self-preservation as it is of actually believing in those values or identifying with some sloganized organizational culture.

I worked for DEC, liked DEC, and did my best, but I don’t think I can honestly say I was ever committed to the values espoused by the organization. I was interested in a paycheck and in order to get that paycheck, I had to align my identity with the patterns of behavior and thought expected by those who had power over me.


New way to see news

The homepage of BuzzFeed is a real turn-off for me, but this article by Ben Thompson has me sticking with it. It's not dignified or 'nice,' but it's very real and very hard-working. I think that's what I can respect. The writers and editors at BuzzFeed are working very, very hard to communicate all the news that we want to have online. It's a good way to understand mainstream interests, and it's not ephemeral (although the interests are).
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Stratechery: Why BuzzFeed is the Most Important News Organization in the World, 2015-Mar-3 by Ben Thompson

In short, by not making money from display ads, and by extension deprioritizing page views, BuzzFeed incentivizes its writers to fully embrace Internet assumptions, and just as importantly disincentivizes pure sensationalism. There is no self-editing or consideration of whether or not a particular post will make money, or if it will play well on the home page, or dishonestly writing a headline just to drive clicks. The only goal is to create – or find – something that resonates.


How to live without being defined by edges

I spend way too much time reading. But occasionally I stumble across something that blows open my mind, making it possible for me to reach the next level of achievement, or something... a higher state of existence. If you want to go there youself, stop reading this and instead read The Web's Grain by Frank Chimero. You'll enjoy it more if you have a big screen and you may want to turn your sound low if people are nearby.  

I have a habit of drawing circles that represent a day in my life and then to divide it up and try to proportion my interests to the amount of time I have. The worst part is when I actually label the time of the day on the slices. I'm defining my life by its edges. In real life, I'm always running over those slice edges as things take longer than I anticipated. 

If the edge of a slice is the time when we have to leave to pick up a child from school, then we need to put an alarm bell on it. Otherwise we need to understand that these edges limit us. 

I want to live a life filled with passion. When we're immersed in what we're doing, then we go into "flow," and lose our sense of time. We wake up and realize we've gone over the slice edge. 

We cannot live with passion and define our life by slices. Instead we have to assemble the pieces of our lives in a way that they can hold together. It happens all the time in real life. Things just cohere or stick together. The parts grow unevenly and the shape is unexpected. 

David Hockney: Billy Wilder Lighting His Cigar, 1982

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FrankChimero.com: The Web's Grain, 2015-Feb-20 by Frank Chimero

Simply put, the edgelessness of the web tears down the constructed edges in the company. Everything is so interconnected that nobody has a clear domain of work any longer—the walls are gone, so we’re left to learn how to collaborate in the spaces where things connect....

The size of what we’re making is unknown until we know what we’re putting there. So, it’s better to come up with an arrangement of elements and assign them to a size, rather than the other way around. We need to start drawing, then put the box around it. ...the perfect example of not drawing the box until you know what goes in it. [Emphasis mine.]

...we’re creating assemblages of elements, then associating them with the appropriate space.... 

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions.


Make your resume a customer experience

We usually write a resume that makes us feel good. Unfortunately we are not the target audience. Asking our business associates for feedback may make us uncomfortable, but it is vital. The more like our targeted hiring managers they are, the better. 

Career Marketing Coach: A Little Resume Tough Love, 2015-Mar-25 by Debra Rosenfeld

…because a resume is a very personal document, and it feels uncomfortable to have qualified people tell you that you need to change your very personal document. It feels much less threatening to ask for advice from people who are not qualified to give it.

So, if you’re not getting interviews, I encourage you to have your resume reviewed by people who are qualified to give you valuable feedback:

* Direct hiring managers in the field in which you work
* Your previous managers
* Senior colleagues or other managers with whom you worked