What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz

I finished today Ben Horowitz’s latest book that was published last month – What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture



This is another good book from Ben although I would rate his classic The Hard Thing About Hard Things much higher. He talks about business culture and how to shape it in this book. I finished the audiobook in about a week.

He talks about 5 elements of great company culture.

  1. Create Shocking Rules
  2. Dress For Success
  3. Make Ethics Explicit
  4. Stay In Constant Contact
  5. Make Decisions That Demonstrate Priorities

Here are some of the quotes from the book that I would like to revisit.

“Culture is not like a mission statement; you can’t just set it up and have it last forever. There’s a saying in the military that if you see something below standard and do nothing, then you’ve set a new standard. This is also true of culture—if you see something off-culture and ignore it, you’ve created a new culture.”

“Breakthrough ideas have traditionally been difficult to manage for two reasons: 1) innovative ideas fail far more than they succeed, and 2) innovative ideas are always controversial before they succeed. If everyone could instantly understand them, they wouldn’t be innovative.”

“Your employees will test you on your cultural virtues, either accidentally or on purpose, so before you put one into your company, ask yourself, “Am I willing to pass the test on this?”

“Without trust, communication breaks. Here’s why: In any human interaction the required amount of community is inversely proportional to the level of trust.”

“When you ask your managers, “What is our culture like?” they’re likely to give you a managed answer that tells you what they think you want to hear and doesn’t hint at what they think you absolutely do not want to hear. That’s why they’re called managers.”

“Your first day, your first week in an organization is when you’re observing each detail, figuring out where you stand. That’s when your sense of the culture gets seared in—especially if someone gets stabbed in the neck. That’s when you diagnose the power structure: Who can get things done, and why? What did they do to get in that position? Can you replicate it?”

“That’s the nature of culture. It’s not a single decision—it’s a code that manifests itself as a vast set of actions taken over time. No one person makes or takes all these actions. Cultural design is a way to program the actions of an organization, but, like computer programs, every culture has bugs. And cultures are significantly more difficult to debug than programs.”

“There’s a saying in the military that if you see something below standard and do nothing, then you’ve set a new standard.”

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