“Culture” is one of the most overused buzzwords of the decade. By definition, culture is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively; the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” Colloquially, however, the word has become a catch-all for anything relevant or hip.
So on Monday night, when I attended a fireside chat with one of the top culture marketers in the world, Steve Stoute, interviewing the legendary VC, Ben Horowitz, I was interested to hear their definition of this star of modern language.
The well-produced event celebrated the release of Ben’s new book, What You Do Is Who You Are, in a room packed with some of my favorite brand marketers, tech entrepreneurs, hip-hop and fashion icons, and, for lack of a better term, culture heads.
It was fascinating to hear Ben and Steve riff on some of the book’s key points, such as company culture and its relationship to the boss. Ben defines “who you are” not by the values you list on the wall, what you say at an all-hands, your marketing campaign, or even what you believe. It’s simply “what you do,” and what you do is, therefore, the north star for your company’s culture: how you make it, how you keep it, and how your behavior impacts it.
To explain this, Ben tells the story of four different leaders who established a culture through who they were:
The leader of the only successful slave revolt, Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture
The Samurai, who ruled Japan for seven hundred years and shaped modern Japanese culture
Genghis Khan, who built the world’s largest empire
Shaka Senghor, a man convicted of murder who ran a formidable prison gang and ultimately transformed prison culture
I love Ben’s personal company culture. For every minute a VC is late to a meeting with an entrepreneur, that person owes $10. This shows the respect for hard work that Ben wants to instill in his team as well as his acknowledgment that entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of their business.
This book makes it clear how you can establish and maintain your company culture. It provides a clear understanding of how your actions determine the culture of your company.
At Nue Agency, we focus on the importance of consumer-facing culture. But as Ben points out, everything starts inside the four walls of your organization.