Matt HealeySunday,7 October 2012



The many roads to failure.

The Snap

Everyone has been part of an organization that has a defined culture. Sometimes that culture is a healthy positive culture, sometime it fucking sucks. In many cases your perspective is determined by how well you fit in that culture. In some cases it is whether the culture is inherently fucked up.

The Download

In my previous life I interacted with a lot of tech companies. What I noticed about most of them is that they all had radically different cultures. There were organizations that were very operationally efficient, ones that had a Ward Cleaver family feel to them, ones that had a Tony Soprano family feel to them, etc. While this was interesting, it was a lot like watching Goodfellas and thinking that you understand mob life. (And before you say anything, yes, I got the full box set of the Soprano’s and my wife and I are now midway through season 2.) The problem is that while you can understand a culture by watching from the outside, you cannot truly grok it until you live it and that can have negative effects if you do not fit. I suspect that Tony would have as difficult a time surviving in Leave it to Beaver and Ward would have in the Soprano’s. So it is important to fit in.

This is obvious. But it is also true that some cultures that are intrinsically fucked up. One of these is the “We will not fail” culture. I say this because failure is always an option. Organizations that punish failure discourage risk. They may not think they are. They may even think that they are encouraging excellence. But they are not. They are creating a culture where people are so afraid to fail that they will never try anything new since if it does not succeed then they will be fucked. I am not saying that the organization should like to fail. It should hate failure, but it should also recognize that it is a part of life and organizations that will not fail will also not succeed. There are too many organizations that put too high a penalty on failure and that needs to stop.

Hat Tips

IMDB: The Sopranos, Wikipedia, IMDB: Goodfellas, Global Nerdy, Business Week, Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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