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Lessons in Culture from Netflix

14 August 2018

Janie read To See the Future of Competition, Look at Netflix by Bill Taylor, and was surprised to learn that some aspects of the culture at Netflix are similar to our ways of working at Allison Partners.

Tags: communication, culture, janie read

I’m a big fan of Netflix. I’ve been a member since the early DVD in the mail days. I wrote about how interesting I found their HR practices earlier this year. When I saw To See the Future of Competition, Look at Netflix by Bill Taylor pop up on the HBR blog earlier this month, I was curious to read more. In the article, Taylor discusses three lessons that he thinks every company can learn from watching Netflix, and I thought I’d stretch my strategic thinking muscles to apply those lessons to other situations.

Of Taylor’s lessons, the one I found most interesting was around the relationship between culture and strategy—and its relevance hit me pretty close to home. Last year, Netflix updated its manifesto on culture. They begin with a strong statement: “Many companies have value statements, but often these written values are vague and ignored. The real values of a firm are shown by who gets rewarded or let go.”

At Netflix this means:

  • “You say what you think, when it’s in the best interest of Netflix, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
  • “You are willing to be critical of the status quo.”
  • “You make tough decisions without agonizing.”
  • “You are able to be vulnerable, in search of truth.”

These statements reminded me of one of our core values at Allison Partners. If you’ve been to our office, you’ve likely seen it written on our wall. “We will have shoes.” To us this means that we will practice what we preach. (The expression is a reference to the cobbler who sells shoes to everyone in town, but whose kids run barefoot through the streets.) Sometimes it’s easier to advise others about what they should be doing and much, much harder to face your own stuff. We make an effort at Allison Partners to follow our own advice, even when it’s uncomfortable. I thought it was interesting to learn that my favorite source of television has a similar core value.

If you’re interested in learning about the other lessons Taylor thinks we can learn from Netflix, I’d recommend giving this article a read.


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