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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Corporate Culture

Corporate culture is a nebulous term. People use it to include everything from free food to whether or not you can bring your dog to work. I personally think that far more important is the way we interact with each other, and how things get done.

One winter, I decided that it would be a good thing to run a bicycle repair workshop as a series of winter classes. I didn't (and really couldn't) teach every class myself, so I put up a shared spreadsheet, and listed a couple of sessions that I would teach, and then Mark Logan, Ryan Kauffman, Bob Sutterfield all pitched in and taught classes I couldn't teach. It was typical of Google culture that volunteer-ism was common. You could almost always get help from someone if you went up to them and asked about something. If they didn't know, they'd point you to someone who did.

Unfortunately, corporate culture is one of the first things to get diluted when a company gets big. And indeed, when Google got to 5,000, then 10,000 and finally 20,000 people events like this got less common. An attempt was made to formalize events like this as "Googles Teaching Googlers." Pardo's wheel-building lectures were made available that way. While it worked to a certain extent, the formal version to my eyes, were always a pale reflection of the spirit of community that prevailed the the company was much smaller.


ArC said...

I would say there still /is/ a corporate culture in big companies, it's just different. And maybe more apathetic.

Unknown said...

Maybe they should split up big offices into little remote offices and see how that works out.

Piaw Na said...

Distributed offices have a really mixed track record. Many offices didn't have sufficient critical mass to have a substantial piece done.

Piaw Na said...

And yes, even big companies have a corporate culture. But it's usually a very diluted version of the original startup's culture. For instance, HP's corporate culture has drifted far from its roots.