Skip to main content

Following the Big Dogs: Lessons in Corporate Culture from Merlin Mann

I ran across Merlin Mann's talk about How to Fix Meetings. It's good, if a little long, so if you're interested in the topic, check it out. But there's one jewel of an idea that I found there that I wanted to call out:

"We aren't dumb. People chase Big Dogs"

This is an invaluable lesson when analyzing your own corporate culture. Forget the mission statements, the surveys, and the focus groups. A "culture" at an organization is the collection of unwritten rules that people either follow, or risk some level of ostracism when they don't. They are usually hard to define, and almost never written down or formalized (mostly because of how very difficult it is to pin them down, particularly from *the inside* of the organization).

But no matter what organization you're talking about, its culture can be discovered by asking "What do people see *as succeeding*". What works? What doesn't? Period. People follow the Big Dogs. 

"Big Dogs" doesn't mean management, either. It means those successful people in whatever corner of the organization that are generally understood to be effective. It's about what those people do (not what they or their managers say) that we pick up on and emulate.

When you've identified the Big Dogs, and identified what they do to be successful at your organization, it's pretty easy to identify the culture.

The hard part is determining whether or not the culture you have is the culture you want.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Crowdsourcing Curation: The Social Graph as Gatekeeper

I've written before about the compromise we tacitly agree to when amateurs take over the roles formerly held by professionsals. The Internet promotes this takeover by lowering the cost of production and transmission to near zero for nearly every user, for everything from words (blogs) to pictures (Flickr) to video (YouTube).

As Clay Shirky put it so well: As freedom to produce increases, average quality necessarily goes down. For example: Thanks to Flickr, we now have access to a mind-boggling array of beautiful pictures, but that's partly because we simply have access to a mind boggling array of pictures, period. Some of these, of course, are beautiful; but there are a lot more of Aunt Bettie's 43rd picture of a bundt cake than of an Annie Leibovitz Rolling Stone cover.

It is at this point that many people interject: "This is the problem with the internet! It's full of crap!" Many would argue that without professional producers, editors, publishers, and the …

What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

An old friend recently reached out to me (and presumably others) and asked us what advice we'd give our younger selves, particularly at ages 20, 30 and 40.


After writing my response to him, I thought it worth posting myself as well. 

The substantive bulk of my response to him follows:

-----

The difficult thing is that I really wouldn't change a thing about who I am, so any call for advice feels a bit like a time-traveler scenario where my advice to a younger self would affect the outcome of my present life, and I'm not sure I'd risk it. My experiences shaped me, including the glaring mistakes, and I wouldn't trade places today with anyone on Earth. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics here, and thus assume I won't mess my own (present) life up.


It is also important to note that the question is "What advice would you give your younger self?". The answers below are specific and personal to me and…

Intellectual Property and Deflation of the Knowledge Economy

[Update: This accidentally became a series of posts on a theme.


Does Intellectual Property Law Foster Innovation?Where I question the efficacy of patent and copyright in a socially networked world.


Intellectual Property and the Deflation of the Knowledge Economy - (this post) Where I toy with the idea that the Knowledge Economy may not turn out to be much of an economy, especially when it comes to Intellectual Property


The Economic Reset Button- Where Jeff Jarvis asks Eric Schmidt whether or not this is a fundamental shift in the economic base


Innovative Deflation- Where I ask, "Is the knowledge economy ripe for growth, or is it the means by which traditional economies are shrunk?" ]

Friday night I was discussing the future of intellectual property law with some friends. My argument, in a nutshell:

Every business model relying on intellectual property law (patent and copyright) is heading for massive deflation in our lifetimes. We've seen it with the music industry and news…