No Rules Rules- Netflix and the culture of Reinvention.
First, I love the fact as to how apt the title is to this book. Being a book that revolves around the concept of not having too many rules at a workplace, the title fits just right.
No Rules Rules, co-written by Netflix founder and CEO- Reed Hastings and author Erin Meyer, is an intriguing read about company culture. It focuses on highlighting the culture at Netflix and how Reed feels that it has been essential for the global growth that they’ve witnessed.
The culture at Netflix is about letting go of any form of control. It is about leading with context instead of control. The expectation, top-down, is about how you can let people make their own decisions and own up to any success or failure of it. Whether it’s the CEO or an associate, their decisions are their own.
Throughout the book, you get to read interesting incidents that highlight how Netflix has been able to build this culture. For instance, on the cusp of House of Cards’ new season releasing, Netflix had decided to partner up with Samsung to let viewers watch the show on 4K ultra high definition TV. To do this, they needed to get this experience to be reviewed by a Washington Post journalist Geoffrey Fowler. Before sending the TV to the journalist, the day before the actual release, they tested the TV and went home. Now, for some reason, the TV was disposed of along with other old TVs in their office. So, instead of it going for the review, Nigel (Director responsible to get this done) was left incessantly calling nearby stores for the TV. But, he had no luck. He was panicking and felt like he’d failed. And then, a junior engineer Nick walks in and assures that the TV has been sent as required. This, because when Nick walked in the early morning he realized what had happened and immediately drove to a best buy and bought a TV worth 2.5k USD. He did that because he felt that was the right thing to do. He saved the day for his team by making a decision without waiting for an approval from his superiors. Netflix is known for similar instances of a no-approval-required policy. The concept of F&R (Freedom and responsibility) is what drives the culture at the company.
While the goal of Netflix has been to ‘Lead with Context and not with Control’, the book highlights the steps that have led them here.
As a reader, your mind immediately wanders to the question, ‘Can this be applied to ALL workplaces?’, ‘Is this specific to a US-centric work culture?’, ‘Not ALL workplaces can function without a degree of control, right?’. And the book tries its best to answer most of the questions.
The book is a good read if you are in a position where you assert a degree of control as a manager or supervisor. It brings a new perspective on possibly letting go of control. At the start, you’re on board with the concept, but as you read on, you realize not everything can be globally adopted. Not all cultures are the same and there would have to be an acceptance for contrasting culture/personality types to come to a middle path.
The book highlights how Netflix focussed on increasing its talent density and let go of anyone who wasn’t the best. ‘Adequate performance deserves a generous severance package’ is what Reed instilled as a practice. This meant anyone who wasn’t performing at their very best was fired. This came as a follow-up realization when they had to fire people at one time but the best-of-the-best who remained got the job done. At Netflix, everyone- the managers as well as the reports- has to take a Keeper’s Test. The test asks a manager how hard he’ll fight to keep an employee in the team. Individuals are also advised to ask their managers, this exact question to ascertain whether their managers are happy with them or not.
One of the other highlights of Netflix’s culture is actively seeking feedback. This applies and goes both ways. Employees are encouraged to provide feedback to their peers as well as managers. The feedback has to be actionable and should align with the concept of 4As. While giving feedback, Aim to assist and make it actionable and when you receive it, appreciate it and then make a decision whether you want to accept it or discard it. Later on, the book also talks about a 5th A- To Adapt.
A range of case studies, failures along the way to establish a culture, and learnings from a variety of people issues form the core of this book. It is definitely a page-turner and at no point do you feel like not reading what the people of Netflix have to say. It is, like the concept popularized by Netflix- binge-worthy!
Worth a read for those who’re trying to understand how cultures shape global organizations and the need to adapt.
If I have to be honest, my instinctive reaction to think of ‘who a Geisha is’ was different before I picked up this book. It is easy to interpret definitions without putting an effort in understanding them.
This memoir changes that. Beautifully, by taking you on a journey of little Chiyo from a fishing village to the streets of Gion. In doing so, it not only brings forth the nuances of the Japanese art, culture and Life, but gives you a detailed view of the life of a Geisha.
Geisha. ‘Gei’ means Art. They are (were) trained professionals who are hired to entertain, dance and sing. The kimono wearing artists start training at a young age by devoting their lives to this.
With post-war influence in Japan of the Americans and English, the ‘geisha girl’ got associated with being prostitutes.
The memoir is an nuanced, poetic and transformative story of a famous Geisha recounting her life journey. Along with her memories, you get immersed in the sublime beauty of Japan. It takes you inside a world, we might not visit due to our pre-rendered inhibitions. From elaborating the training of a Geisha, to various initiation ceremonies and the competitiveness of the apprentices who are trying to better the other. It’s all poetically written.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this memoir does justice to the richness of Japanese culture and how nuanced it is.
And yes, maybe, there can be school of thoughts on just one aspect of a culture cannot encompass it all. And I’d completely agree to that. The book carves out its own place, the protagonist creates her own world and doesn’t let you venture out from it. The world-view is restricted to Gion and lives of Geishas. And believe me, you won’t complain.
Author Arthur Golden apparantly re-wrote it thrice after multiple interviews with prominent Geishas of the time. And the simplicity of the language, the philosophy makes you sit back and think of what you’ve just read. This happened with me quite a lot while reading this through.
This 500-odd page book is a page turner. A worthy read to the lives of a Geisha. Highly recommended.
A sense of calm, bereft of mornings, overcomes my sense, as I got up today after a late afternoon nap. Nowhere to rush to, absolutely nothing to do but just a feeling of being in that very moment occupied my head.
On the bed, watching the blade of the fan swirling above my head and the fading sunlight of the evening peeping right through the window. With that, I led myself up at an instant, while realizing I did not have to drag myself as I do it in the morning. Aah! Don’t I hate it to get out of my bed every morning?
Opening the door to my balcony while placing a chair outside, ensuring the raindrops do not fall over, I sit there to look at the rain. It was not raining heavily and neither there was a drizzle. Just enough to hear the drops falling over the railings of my staircase-cum-balcony. My post-sleep blank self sits there with post-sleep mouth not wanting to do a chore.
Yet, I went back in to get the cup of coffee that I had just put before coming out here. I waited, counting the drops pouring down into the cup. No rush. There is no rush. I started at the cup much the same way I started at the stillness of the sky and the trees, with only the raindrops being allowed to make a sound, the moment is free of any ‘What’s next?’. The music of it all. Tip-tapping their way in the background like a song which just needed this still image. There is no video to accompany it. This image would do.
As the light fades out slowly, I stare at the endlessness of the sky. Edge to edge. The expanse and the reach of it, hitting. The droplets join to travel alongside the edge of the railings and the leaves moving ever so slightly to wave this evening a goodbye.
I stopped myself to think, ‘will there be more of this?’ and brought myself to just be in this very moment and not think of ‘What’s next?’. Let that remain the job of a post-morning me.
It’s a breezy weekend read of just 133-odd pages which feels half that. One of those types of achool-book stories which we’re all familiar with. Ruskin Bond’s stories are always simple, easy to digest and doesn’t take too much of your time. This book follows the same set.
The story takes place around the time of the 1857 Revolt. The same which we term as the ‘First war of Indian Independence’ and the British terms as a ‘sepoy mutiny’. This becomes the background of the protagonists’ story and doesn’t dwell at all into the intricacies of what, how and why of the revolt.
The story is told from the perspective of Ruth, daughter of a British Magistrate. The story is of the time when Mr.Labadoor, the clerk, gets killed in a massacre at a church by the revolting armies as a revenge against the ‘firangis’. From then on, it is about the survival of Ruth, her mother Mariam, their granny and a few others. Fleeing from one place to another. How this takes a turn when a Pathan, Javed Khan, decides to take them all under his roof as he particularly like Ruth and wanted to marry her.
The characters in the book are somewhat caricaturish of the time this book is based on. But this feeling is also due to how fast the story develops. However, it is apparantly based on real events. Even a movie, Junoon, was made by Shyam Benegal starring Shashi Kapoor in 1978 on this. It’s a good book that delves into the other side of what the mutiny would’ve felt like for the ordinary working class firangis. It brings forth the irrational fears of people during war and also contrasting generosity of people even during such times.
Do give it a read. It’s short but rich in unsaid emotions.
While I’ve not read reviews of this book, I’m pretty sure the length of it should be the first thing that needs to be addressed 🙂 Last couple of years, I’ve consciously made the decision to read more Indian authors and Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ ranks high in the list of very best. I started reading this book somewhere last year and it took me a while to finish it.
But, boy, what a ride. The story centers around Lata and her mother Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s primary aim is to find the most suitable match for her daughter. And while this book could’ve been just about that, it is way more than just that.
This is a story of 4 families. And even if I attempt to weave it all into a summary, I just won’t be able to. The descriptive nature of each character, their emotions and influence is stitched brilliantly. If you like to write, then this book is such a good example of connecting storylines effortlessly.
The book is more about letting the character’s do what they can do, rather than forcing a narrative on them for the sake of moving the story forward. And that’s something I really loved about it. The honesty of each character is brought out quite well by the flow of the story.
Even though the book is long, at no point you’ll feel bored of it. It’s a keeper. A keeper to revisit after a couple of decades. This was written in ’93 for the time period of early ’50s and it has aged well.
I don’t have any gripe with how this book is, except maybe it’s long 🙂 Having said that, the book takes way too long to get you hooked. Like, I was almost half-way through it and only then I was invested in the characters. Question is, does everyone has that much patience ?
Either way, I’m glad that I stuck to it and finsihed it. Of course, the lockdown weekends did help and I’m glad to own a copy of this mammoth book.
I felt the writer, Vikram Seth, let the writing be done by the characters instead of a central voice. The writing is easy flowing, captivating, poetry-rich and perspective-laden.