This is the letter that Apple gives to employees on their first day.
You might call it ‘company culture’, but it surely makes you think about business organizations as groups of people, and how important some values are for them to prosper and generate value. For themselves and their community.
We are seeing some organization being more successful in creating a culture than others, and that’s been traditionally associated with better employees’ engagement and retention. However if we look at successful companies today we can see how some of the principles of the Internet culture are actually becoming critical in creating successful organizations. Actually it seems that the Internet culture is setting the foundation for a different way of generating economic and social value.
A good list of these principles has emerged at the recent Members meeting at the MIT Media Lab. In this occasion there’s been a lot of debate about the role of the Media Lab for organizations and people. Joi Ito - the director since less than a year- is a big supporter of openness and inclusiveness. He believes it is important to shake the academic status of the Media Lab and explore new territories for such an influential and innovative entity.
So what he did: he called a few tinkers (Seth Godin, Reid Hoffman, Peter Gabriel, just to name a few) and asked them to form a council and discuss the role of the Media Lab. The result was an interesting set of values that I believe are relevant for all organization wishing to reinvent their model to be more successful, attract talent and be more sustainable.
- Resilience (instead of Strength): if an organization is resilient against what makes the world challenging today it has more chances to successfully face complexity, speed and unpredictability. Bouncing back is more valuable than being tough. In fact if I think of traditional ‘tough’ organizations – like car makers- I can see how some are trying to find their inner resilience to survive the bad hit they’ve received. European countries like Greece, Spain and Italy will need to rediscover resilience to overcome this big economic hit. I wonder which of these will find it in its culture more than others.
- Pull (instead of push)/ Smart crowd (instead of experts): get the resources from your network, from outside, rather than stocking them. This is a big leap from old models of organization that believed they had to control every aspect of their process. However if a group wants to rely on external collaboration it has to establish a circle of trust, through clear principles and transparency. Being honest creates value, because both your customers and partners are willing to support and contribute. Also as problems need to be solved and innovative solutions need to be found, groups of people can produce a better outcome than single individuals. What if customer care would finally acknowledge this? How would it change the post-sale structure of most product and services? You could argue that the real Apple Care is done by users, everyday, online.
- Portfolios (instead of planning)/ Practice (instead of theory): build and prototype innovation rather than investing time and money to plan the possible upsides or downsides. Prototype, and leverage the ecosystem to fail fast (or scale rapidly). It is still challenging for most traditional industries, however there is great value for R&D in testing less than perfect products into a receptive and responsive ecosystem. Right now ‘if reality doesn’t match the theory they question the reality instead of the theory” (Joi Ito).
- Systems (instead of objects): companies used to make products and services. But the growing importance of user experience has placed more focus on the system around them, the social components, and the interdependence of people, groups and objects. That’s how Nike could create FuelBand, that’s how Fiat could create Ecodrive. That’s probably how the next generation of commerce will be conceived, possibly replacing money with a new set of currency that will merge the intrinsic value with the extrinsic social components associated with it.
- Compasses (instead of maps): the 5-year ahead planning of every organization is now increasingly difficult to achieve. Also planning everything excludes the unexpected (innovation, big changes in the market) and the serendipitous (strike of luck). A compass is necessary to see where groups are going, but keeping the eyes open helps reacting fast to external changes.
- Encourage rebellion (instead of compliance)/Constant learning (instead of education): in traditional schools we are thought answers rather than how to learn. Oftentimes learning requires constantly asking questions and not accepting the traditional answers as given. In every organization there should be space for this, structurally encouraged to question in order to guarantee future development and innovation. Facebook has “Hack” sessions. I wonder what would happen in traditional organizations like Parma companies or transport systems..
So what is next for organizations? I’d like to hear some more thoughts…