Occasionally authors or publishers offer me a business book to review on my blog. Depending on the subject I sometimes accept, and I’ve just started reading one of these (more on the book at another time). The opening chapter discusses the importance of “corporate culture”, which has caused me to reflect on the culture of a company where I worked over a decade ago.
The company, Octel Communications, was 5 years old when I joined it. Eight years later it was acquired by a major corporation for $1.8 Billion. To this day, people who worked at Octel continue to hold each other in high esteem and believe the time when they worked together was perhaps the best in their careers. Why? The company culture.
I recall being given employee information about what the company valued. There were perhaps 5 points in all, and today I remember just one, because it was so unusual and refreshing. That point was, to paraphrase, that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you fix them and learn from them. The company welcomed innovation, and this was their way of encouraging it. Don’t be afraid to try something that hasn’t been done before. It won’t always be a success, but we’ll all learn from it.
The fact that Octel explicitly communicated a few key points on which every employee could base business decisions meant that everyone shared in a culture that made the company highly successful and valuable, and those employees still regard the experience as one of the best of their lives.