The Culture Code

The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

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Cohesion happens not when members of a group are smarter but when they are lit up by clear, steady signals of safe connection.

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I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.

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It is easier to get into Harvard than to get a job at Zappos.

Note:Why do people equal acceptance rate with how easy it is to get something? Harvard only gets apllicants that pay a fee to apply, are college seniors, and where some level of self selection has already happened. Anyone can apply to a job at Zappos.

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When I visited groups for this book, I met a lot of people who possessed traits of warmth and curiosity—so many, in fact, that I began to think of them as Nyquists. They were polite, reserved, and skilled listeners. They radiated a safe, nurturing vibe. They possessed deep knowledge that spanned domains and had a knack for asking questions that ignited motivation and ideas. (The best way to find the Nyquist is usually to ask people: If I could get a sense of the way your culture works by meeting just one person, who would that person be?) If we think of successful cultures as engines of human cooperation, then the Nyquists are the spark plugs.

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In Conversation, Resist the Temptation to Reflexively Add Value: The most important part of creating vulnerability often resides not in what you say but in what you do not say. This means having the willpower to forgo easy opportunities to offer solutions and make suggestions. Skilled listeners do not interrupt with phrases like Hey, here’s an idea or Let me tell you what worked for me in a similar situation because they understand that it’s not about them. They use a repertoire of gestures and phrases that keep the other person talking. “One of the things I say most often is probably the simplest thing I say,” says Givechi. “ ‘Say more about that.’ ” It’s not that suggestions are off limits; rather they should be made only after you establish what Givechi calls “a scaffold of thoughtfulness.” The scaffold underlies the conversation, supporting the risks and vulnerabilities. With the scaffold, people will be supported in taking the risks that cooperation requires. Without it, the conversation collapses.

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Performance evaluation tends to be a high-risk, inevitably judgmental interaction, often with salary-related consequences. Development, on the other hand, is about identifying strengths and providing support and opportunities for growth. Linking them into one conversation muddies the waters.

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There is no blame or judgment in his gaze, only a quiet satisfaction born of clarity. We made some mistakes with this building, and now we know that, and we are slightly better because we know that.

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We put in some new systems, and they learned new ways of interacting. It’s strange to think that a wave of creativity and innovation can be unleashed by something as mundane as changing systems and learning new ways of interacting. But it’s true, because building creative purpose isn’t really about creativity. It’s about building ownership, providing support, and aligning group energy toward the arduous, error-filled, ultimately fulfilling journey of making something new.