Ben Horowitz: “Use Shock Value to Build Culture.”


Ben Horowitz writes on his blog that the strongest companies are often “cult-like,” only because they are provocative enough “to change what people do every day.” The ideal cultural point is easy to implement, but holds far-reaching consequences.

He cites the example of Jeff Bezos at Amazon requiring all desks be constructed out of Home Depot doors – even at its current multi-billion dollar valuation. Rather than pay lip service to frugality, Bezos decided to institute a stark visual example of the company’s mission to deliver value to customers.

Similarly, a shocking motto can be useful, such as Mark Zuckerberg’s “Move fast and break things” motto in the early days of Facebook. The motto is seemingly counterproductive – most employees would not want to break things – but wholly encourages creative destruction at the same time, and was key to Facebook’s fast-track to the IPO.

A strong culture, according to Horowitz:

a)    Distinguishes you from competitors

b)    Ensures that critical operating values persist

c)    Help identify employees that fit with the mission