NO RULES RULES

NETFLIX AND THE CULTURE OF REINVENTION

A self-congratulatory but fascinating story of a counterintuitive approach that apparently works—at least for Netflix.

Netflix co-founder Hastings and business guru Meyer hold forth on the unusual workplace culture—high performance, top pay, no rules, and constant candor—behind the entertainment company’s streaming success.

Founded in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail business, Netflix now has 7,000 employees, creates its own award-winning TV shows, and reaches 150 million streaming customers in 190 countries. In a 2018 Wall Street Journal profile, the firm was criticized for its sometimes “ruthless” approach, including the harsh firing of underperforming employees. In this debut, Hastings offers a different view. He celebrates his firm’s culture, arguing that its emphasis on keeping only the most highly effective people is essential to innovation and creative success. In alternating sections with Meyer, who provides elaboration based on more than 200 Netflix interviews, Hastings details the making of the Netflix way, from hiring the best creative talent at high pay to increasing candor through frequent feedback and gradually removing controls that stifle innovation. The latter begins with removing vacation policies and travel/expense controls and culminates in sharing “unprecedented” amounts of company information so that employees can make good decisions on their own. No approvals from higher-ups are needed: “Don’t seek to please your boss,” only to advance the company. All of this is possible only after you have formed a team (not a family) of “self-motivated, self-aware, and self-disciplined” staff. A critical element, the “keeper test,” suggests a staffer ask a boss, “If I were thinking of leaving, how hard would you work to change my mind?” Fired employees receive generous severance. The book is conversational, packed with sidebars, asides, graphs, and charts, and illuminating, sometimes self-satisfied anecdotes. Netflix-like cultures of “freedom and responsibility” are most effective in “creative” companies that depend on “innovation, speed, and flexibility.” Firms focused on error prevention generally opt for stricter policies.

A self-congratulatory but fascinating story of a counterintuitive approach that apparently works—at least for Netflix.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7786-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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