Business18 September 2020
Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings and author Erin Meyer literally opened the book on Netflix’s unorthodox company culture last week with the publication of No Rules Rules.
The book features never-before-told stories and interviews with more than 100 Netflix employees past and present, from Singapore to Amsterdam, from Alphaville to Los Angeles. Serving as a guide for how other creative companies might institute a similar ‘Freedom & Responsibility’ model, it is also designed to spark a debate about how a company’s culture can help it succeed - a chance to “learn the Netflix secret sauce,” as Good to Great author Jim Collins puts it.
In interviews about the book, Reed spoke about how Netflix employees are less like a family and more like an Olympic sports team, always trying to have the best players in every position and a collective sense of improvement and success. “I find it motivating that I have to play for my position every quarter, and I try to keep improving myself to stay ahead,” he told The New York Times.
Speaking to TED curator Chris Anderson, Reed discussed the importance of being open with employees about all aspects of the business. “We want to be very transparent, very open with employees, and have them feel very trusted. What we get back is a sense of commitment and that they really go the extra mile because they care.”
And does Reed gets the candid feedback that he preaches from other employees at Netflix? “All the time!,” he told CBS Sunday Morning in a joint interview with co-CEO officer Ted Sarandos.
No Rules Rules co-author Erin Meyer, a business school professor at INSEAD in Paris, had written The Culture Map, which many at Netflix have read. When she agreed to do the project, she was a skeptic. The result is a book that not only shows how the culture has helped us reinvented ourselves - from DVDs to streaming, US to international and buying others’ shows and films to making our own - but gives a realistic inside look. “I’ve read many CEO pontification books, and I always wonder what it’s really like in the middle of that organization,” Reed told Variety.
With the book’s release, Reed met with press virtually from all over including Hindustan Times in India, Italy’s Sette in Italy and Estradão in Brazil. He even made “lunch” - homemade pizza at 7.30 in the morning - with the Financial Times’ Alex Barker over Zoom from 5,000 miles away. “If you just say no rules, then it is kind of anarchy,” he explained to Barker. “The question is, can you manage through values and context, so everyone is doing the right thing without central coordination? It’s the jazz metaphor versus the orchestra.”
That context - and transparency with employees - is key so that employees feel empowered to make big bets on behalf of consumers, as Reed said to India’s Hindustan Times. “We want our employees to be thinkers, changers, not to seek to please the boss or how to make him happy. It’s much more powerful if they think how to make the customer happy. At the highest level, it’s about making every employee a creative visionary.”
For more on No Rules Rules, click here. To hear more from Reed, listen to our WeAreNetflix podcast, watch him reveal his top five lessons learned from leading Netflix, and read more about our culture here.