Successful Culture Creation – More Than One Approach [Part 2]

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In Part One: Intro to Workplace Culture – It Makes A Difference, I touched only briefly on a few of the things that set eyeglasses designer and distributors, Warby Parker, ahead of their competition in the great company culture race that has caught momentum since Amazon came under a bit of fire for their guerilla-style management policies.

In case you haven’t heard, here’s a brief synopsis: The New York Times posted an article that claimed to expose Amazon’s work environment for what it really was: “a singular way of working” at an “unrelenting pace.” The article is titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” and really does not hold back on its critiques of the shipping giant’s approach to employee inspiration and motivation.

While there were a lot of valid reasons people were upset, from employees crying at their desks to “purposeful Darwinism” (annual rounds of letting go employees with low performance), it’s worth it to look at some of the effective methods they employ. The key to the maintenance of a desirable company culture is intent, and there is no mistaking that Amazon intends to continue its high-octane, effective ways.

With a list of 14, company-wide values that every long-term employee knows by heart, a common sense of competition and purpose drives this company’s wide-reaching success. Discussion, ambition, and even questioning authority is highly encouraged to drive innovation. This passionate pursuit of the cutting edge has led to an interesting polarization when it comes to current and former Amazon employees.

While plenty has their complaints, there is at least an equal amount of them that praised the environment for driving their productivity, pushing them past their perceived limits, and instilling a greater sense of self-reliance in their careers. Perhaps, then, there is something to be said about the left-brained, succeed-at-all-costs approach.

When you put Warby Parker and Amazon side by side to compare the company cultures, the two have very different methods of achieving similar results, and it all starts with the CEO. Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker appreciates the creativity that goes into effective culture creation and has voiced the importance of diversity in the workplace.

Jeff Bezos at Amazon, while also understanding the role diversity plays in a successful business, takes a more left-brained approach, with a penchant for carefully taking things apart and focusing on “process, not failure.”

There can be upsides and downsides to either approach, and these are not the only paths to success (though either CEO will likely tell you their way is the best way). Cultivation of the right culture takes time and careful planning, and there are a lot of things you can do to get the results you desire.

Part three will look at the three top concepts that are critical to encouraging a company-wide attitude of camaraderie and productivity.

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