Every once in awhile I get excited for a new business book published by a well-recognized business person but a first-time book author. For 2018, the book that I am excited about is Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, written by the co-creator of the Netflix Culture Deck and former Netflix executive Patty McCord, which is being published TODAY, January 9, 2018. Although Patty is an HR executive, I found that the advice in her book and work experience translated very well across departments in this age of social business, including the many marketers and that read this blog. Fortunately, I was able to interview her to delve deeper into her experience and what targeted advice she might provide readers of this blog.
To understand Patty’s career achievements, we must begin with that co-authored Netflix Culture Deck, which spoke to the unique culture at Netflix that Patty helped to instill that has influenced millions of people. The Slideshare of that deck is embedded below for your viewing pleasure, but if you were to click this link and see the actual presentation on Slideshare, you’ll see that this deck has received more than 17 million views since it was published!
The document continues to have far-reaching impact, with Sheryl Sandberg calling it one of the most important documents to come out of the Silicon Valley. Now Patty is coming forth sharing all of her experiences from Netflix and beyond to help you instill the right culture in your business.
If this has peaked your interest, go to Amazon and buy the book! Otherwise, keep reading this exclusive interview to both learn more about the book and get some targeted advice from Patty that is not included in the book. All of the chapters and quotes that I refer to in my questions come straight from the book itself as I was able to receive an advanced preview. I have added the bold letters for emphasis on the advice that Patty delivers in the interview.
Q: As the co-creator of the Netflix Culture Deck, you created something which every marketing team dreams of achieving: Truly viral content that has been liked and shared and influenced decision makers for nearly a decade and is still talked about today. Obviously the Culture Deck is based on your success at Netflix, but what do you attribute its viral appeal to?
First, most people don’t know that the culture deck took 12 years to write. It was a living work in progress while we tried to figure out how to operationalize and live it. Just had dinner with Reed, they still work on it. I think the viral appeal is that there really isn’t anything radical in it, it’s simply truthful and written in everyday language. It’s amazing how appealing logic and common sense is!
Q: If the Netflix Culture Deck were created in today’s age of social media and “millennial” (sorry for using the term!) workforce, do you think it would have been any different? Why or why not?
No, i don’t think so. Because Netflix was and is an internet company at its core, the idea of sharing data, open feedback and measurement is the core of the success at Netflix. It’s a huge advantage for all employees, that visceral connection to the customer.
Q: In the world of social media marketing, many enterprises have embarked on “employee advocacy” programs over the last few years, some more successful than others. Many have now changed the focus of these programs from employee advocacy (asking to share content) to employee engagement (engaging them with company content to keep them in the know – or “jazzing it up” as you say in your book). You mention in your book that you want your employees to always challenge each other vigorously. In such an environment, what would be your suggestion to adapt a successful employee advocacy/engagement program? Would you consider such a program an example of “a strong heartbeat of communication?” Or is this something that companies should not even consider and simply have a laissez-faire approach to?
I’m leery of the terminology “employee advocacy/engagement program”. I’m not sure what that means and I’ve been in HR all my life. Betcha most employees don’t know either. One of the big problems I have with programs and initiatives is that the outcome is not defined and/or is a fuzzy feel good thing to be. I’m much more of a business person than that. People are engaged, in my experience, when they are immersed in the work with great colleagues to challenge them. Doing that takes focus and attention. So, no, I don’t advocate a laissez-faire approach, but I hate the gimmicky “make em happy and they’ll do good work” approach.
Q: I LOVE your definition of how successful Internet companies are organically solving business problems by “constantly adapting to the demands of the business and customer.” I always have felt that social media marketing should, in a similar way, be more about the customer and their needs and adapting to new ways of communication rather than traditional approaches which might not be as effective depending on the target audience. Would you agree that this concept is especially important for marketers today?
100%. The connection with the customer is the gift of the internet.
Q: You mention how at Netflix you decided to go against convention by strategically take headhunting in-house. Would you make the same recommendation for companies to, instead of hiring external marketing agencies for instance, to bring those core skills in-house if they were strategic enough as talent was to you at Netflix? Any advice for those companies on how to go about doing so?
I think it depends. We didn’t have companies like yours around when we started Netflix and we had to do everything in house. I think external companies can bring tremendous value in 2 ways. 1. They can crowd source learning and expertise from their various clients and everyone can learn and evolve collectively and 2. You can develop a bench strength in the technology side. That’s often a difficult job for Marketing to do.
Q: You make some brilliant commentary about customer experience, or lack thereof, in Chapter 2. “Every company has calculated its cost of customer acquisition, and each person who becomes a customer on another customer’s recommendation saves the company that amount of money. Every company can share that information with service representatives as part of bringing them on board.” What percentage of companies do you think actually do this and why do you think the number is so low?
In general, because they see Customer Service folks as junior, high turnover and low skilled. Replaceable, so why invest? My experience is that although all of that is true, it’s all the more reason to prepare people for the rest of their careers.
Q: Many digital marketers take a data-driven approach to their trade rather than the “data-informed” approach that you recommend in Chapter 4. What would be your advice to help wean professionals from making too many important business decisions just based on data alone? Is a Consumer Science Meeting a must-have for every company today?
I believe that collaborative, cross functional working is absolutely imperative for the future.
Q: How do you help prevent executives from fixating on “metrics that don’t matter?”
You challenge them and pause to review the efficacy. It’s discipline.
Q: You have worked in a crucial role both at Netflix as well as a strategic advisor at helping companies scale their business. For those readers that are looking to scale for 2018, what advice would you offer them from your experiences?
Never think you have it figured out. Always be open to new ways of doing things and getting rid of old ways that don’t work anymore.
Q: You mention in your conclusion the “creative risk-taking” that J. Walter Thompson wanted to encourage vis a vis their Argentina’s unit successful Coca-Cola ad creation. One could agree that new visual social media platforms require this same sort of creative risk-taking on a constant basis. What advice would you give marketers to foster this type of creative risk-taking environment in their jobs?
Sometimes, it’s just leaving them alone.
I thank Patty for being gracious in answering questions that were targeted more for marketers than her HR background, but hopefully you see a lot of wisdom in her answers that are relevant to the challenges faced by marketing teams today. If I was to summarize some key takeaways from the book and interview, they would look like this:
- The Internet gives you an invaluable connection with your customer. Do not forget about it nor underestimate the power that that connection can have for your business if properly leveraged.
- Surround your employees with great colleagues and challenging work – always.
- You need to always be constantly adapting to the demands of your business and customer. In order to do this, always be open to new ways of doing things and getting rid of old ways that don’t work anymore.
- Collaborative, cross functional working is absolutely imperative for the future.
- Data-driven approaches alone are dangerous. Be data-informed but always challenge the data regularly from multiple perspectives.
If you enjoyed the interview I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book. Happy reading!
Do you agree with what Patty has to say? Feel free to chime in if you’ve read her book or want to comment on the interview. Thanks!
The publication of this post has been made possible through the generosity of one of our sponsors but all opinions are strictly my own.