The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups - Deepstash

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“The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”



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“We are all paid to solve problems. Make sure to pick fun people to solve problems with.”



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A Sense of Belonging

A Sense of Belonging

Neuropsychological studies have shown that we are strongly wired to sense and value belonging.

There are 3 primary ways that members of a group send and receive belonging cues to each other.

  • Energy – Individuals are engaged with the group. They invest in the exchange that is occurring
  • Individualization – Each person is valued and his/her opinion listened to.
  • Future orientation – There is a sense that the relationship has a future.


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Team Performance

You might think the success of a team depends on the individual team members’ skills. However, to a great extent it depends on 5 specific factors that can predict with accuracy how well a team will perform:

  1. Everyone in the group talks and listens in equal measure, keeping contributions short.
  2. Members maintain high levels of eye contact, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  3. Members communicate directly with one another.
  4. Members carry on side conversations within the team.
  5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back to share with the others.


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Sharing Vulnerability

Sharing Vulnerability

Being vulnerable does not mean indiscriminately sharing fears and shortcomings. Instead, it means specifically being honest about your concerns about a project. Sharing vulnerability can also mean taking an honest look at how things went.

Sharing our own vulnerability about what we are concerned about, or what we think could be improved creates an environment where others feel free to share their concerns as well.


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Leaders Should Seek Honest Feedback

Leaders should ask their group members for specific feedback in 3 areas:

  • Name one thing that I currently do that you’d like me to continue to do?
  • Is there one thing I don’t currently do frequently enough that you think I should do more often?
  • What can I do to make you more effective?


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How to Establish a Purpose For Your Group

How to Establish a Purpose For Your Group

  • Rank your priorities. What are the primary things that are most important to your group or team?
  • Be clearer than you think you need to be. Ask group members what your vision is.
  • Decide on where you will aim for proficiency and where you will aim for creativity. This means defining the areas where the team and team members need to be proficient in specific skills
  • Embrace catchphrases. Cultures that have a sense of belonging often have a shared vocabulary.
  • Measure what matters. 
  • Focus on bar-setting behaviors.


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Avoid Brutal Honesty. Aim for Candor

Giving honest feedback is risky because it can easily result in people feeling hurt or demoralized.

By aiming for candor—feedback that is smaller, more targeted, less personal, less judgmental, and equally impactful—it’s easier to maintain a sense of safety and belonging in the group.


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Align Language with Action

Many highly cooperative groups use language to reinforce their interdependence.

For example, navy pilots returning to aircraft carriers do not “land" but are “recovered."  Groups at Pixar do not offer “notes" on early versions of films; they “plus" them by offering solutions to problems.

These might seem like small semantic differences, but they matter because they continually highlight the cooperative, interconnected nature of the work and reinforce the group’s shared identity.


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Name and Rank Your Priorities

In order to move toward a target, you must first have a target. Listing your priorities is the first step.

Most successful groups end up with a small handful of priorities and many end up placing their in-group relationships—how they treat one another—at the top of the list. Their greatest project is building and sustaining the group itself. If they get their own relationships right, everything else will follow.


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Figure Out Where Your Group Aims for Proficiency and Where It Aims for Creativity

Every group skill can be sorted into one of two basic types: skills of proficiency and skills of creativity.

  • Skills of proficiency are about doing a task the same way, every single time. They are about delivering machine-like reliability, and they tend to apply in domains in which the goal behaviors are clearly defined, such as service.
  • Creative skills, on the other hand, are about empowering a group to do the hard work of building something that has never existed before.


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Embrace the Use of Catchphrases

Embrace the Use of Catchphrases

The trick to building effective catchphrases is to keep them simple, action-oriented, and forthright:

"Create fun and a little weirdness" (Zappos), "Talk less, do more" (IDEO), "Work hard, be nice" (KIPP), "Pound the rock" (San Antonio Spurs), "Leave the jersey in a better place" (New Zealand All-Blacks), "Create raves for guests" (Danny Meyer’s restaurants).


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The Culture Code analyses the mechanism behind a successful team and what makes people genuinely engage in organizational goals.

Curious about different takes? Check out our The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups Summary book page to explore multiple unique summaries written by Deepstash users.

Linda Thompson's ideas are part of this journey:

Countering The Great Resignation

Learn more about teamwork with this collection

Ways to counter the Great Resignation

Strategies for making better decisions

Tips for giving effective feedback

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Curious about different takes? Check out our book page to explore multiple unique summaries written by Deepstash curators:

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