There is an argument coming out of Silicon Valley which emphasises “the power of culture, rather than technology or money, as a driver of business success.”
Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Ben Horowitz reveals that behind many a successful enterprise lies a set of distinctive and unique practices described as “shocking rules”. These rules may be accepted by those within the organisation, but to anyone external they would sound bizarre and unnecessary.
Horowitz believes that, “You can’t create something unique and compelling in the marketplace unless you first create something unique and compelling in the workplace. Truly great organizations work as distinctively as they hope to compete.”
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Bill Taylor reveals some of the peculiar rules enforced at successful organisations. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos insisted on using makeshift desks for years even after the company was turning a huge profit and could easily have paid for quality furniture. Taylor points out that, “…this shocking rule reminded everyone that “We look for every opportunity to save money so we can deliver the best products for the lowest cost.” ”
Another big company valued the importance of returning customer calls in a timely manner. The CEO insisted that any staff members who could not return a customer’s call that day should pass the details on to him so that he could ensure it happened. Whilst the rule sounds quite extreme, it reinforces that a core company value is excellent customer care.
This notion of bizarre and distinctive rules may make the organisations sound a bit quirky or even odd. However, what they serve to prove is that the company has defined objectives and that the whole company should work together to adhere to them. The companies sound aligned with clear communication around goals. From our own research, we know how powerful that can be. Strong leadership coupled with clear communication and awareness within the organisation helps to maximise performance within teams and lead to business success.
So maybe this notion of ‘bizarre’ and ‘shocking’ rules is not so shocking after all. Creating a strong and cohesive team climate as these leaders have done, makes business sense. It is their distinctiveness that sets them apart from the rest.