Culture in the Silicon Valley

May 29, 2014 | Comments

In a recent visit to California, i visited a number of famous companies in the Silicon Valley such as Google, Facebook, Evernote, Quora, Airbnb etc. These are all the ‘cool’ companies with great cultures that many would die to get in. But what really does it mean to have a great culture? Sure the oversized bean bags, foosball tables, free meals and modern-looking workspaces forms part of it. But as i learnt from the many visits, great culture is more than materialistic satisfactions and cool company perks.

The key, is that everyone in the company thinks alike. What does it mean? It means a collective group of people come together to live and breathe on the same set of problems, every single day. They believe that a company is greater than the sum of its parts. They sweat the mission and vision of their greater entity.

At Facebook, everyone wants to build things that makes people stay connected. It doesn’t matter if their role isn’t engineering. The company hired people who care about being social no matter what discipline they are in so this trait integrates into their daily work. They ruthlessly scrutinize their work in order to produce the best products that makes millions of people say ‘hello’ each day. It is this shared camaraderie the eliminates frustrations when a better design is shot down by an engineering manager who just wants to fix bugs.

Airbnb wants to unlock unique spaces worldwide. This vision tickles down to every single one of its employees. In order for that, the company built an environment where you can spend time building a global reach instead of having to fight for time to do your laundry, or get frustrated over expensive lunches. All mundane things are taken care of, so you can focus on what really matters.

All these, brings the idea that executing a company vision needs to be everyone’s job. Is everybody sharing the company’s delights and sorrows? Does everyone talk about user’s problems or talk about their own problems? I think a big reason why these companies consistently hit the top of ‘Dream company to work for’ list is that they’ve figured out how to solve its employee’s little problems, in return for these talents helping to solve company’s big problems. It is also this realization that differentiates between a good company and a great company.

When you walk into your office tomorrow, start listening to what your employees are saying. If you can’t help them solve their daily problems, don’t expect them to solve yours.

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