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What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture
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What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  5,980 ratings  ·  474 reviews
Ben Horowitz, a leading venture capitalist, modern management expert, and New York Times bestselling author, combines lessons both from history and from modern organizational practice with practical and often surprising advice to help executives build cultures that can weather both good and bad times.

Ben Horowitz has long been fascinated by history, and particularly by ho
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Harper Business
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Julia Gaffield
Nov 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Lessons in Leadership Conservatism

In What You Do Is Who You Are, venture-capitalist and NYT best-selling author, Ben Horowitz, turns to history to teach CEOs and business leaders how they can shape and change the cultures of their companies. His first of four models is Toussaint Louverture, a military and political leader in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804).

In the eighteenth century, sugar took over the economy of the western hemisphere and the heart of this exploitative system was France’s C
Kair Käsper
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: starting-up
After The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, this book was a disappointment. Here’s a few reasons:

First - a large portion of this book could have been written by anyone. For reasons unclear, Horowitz brings examples mostly not from his own experience, but from history. Let’s remind ourselves that Horowitz is not a historian and it feels a lot like he has interpreted the stories, characters and their decisions to fit the points he’s trying to make.

Frank Chen
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've worked in Ben Horowitz designed cultures for decades (Netscape, Loudcloud, Opsware, Andreessen Horowitz). So it was fun & fascinating to go behind-the-scenes to understand his detailed thinking behind some of the decisions he made. Like "Hard Things About Hard Things", this book is practical and philosophical at the same time.

Culture is hard to design, it takes constant work to design and reinforce, it's subtle, it needs to be refreshed constantly. It's also often overlooked as startup CEO
J. Wootton
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: job, best-of
Unexpected and delightful. Possibly the least dry and simultaneously most practical book on organizational culture currently on the market. Using a blend of case studies from history and present-day interviews, Horowitz offers insight and suggestions on purposeful actions leaders can take, actions proven to work (or fail!) in a variety of contexts, from feudal Japan to modern-day McDonalds, from revolutionary Haiti to major tech companies like Netflix, Uber, Apple, and Intel. In my top three wor ...more
Farhan Khalid
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Culture is vital — and it’s unique to every flourishing company

Culturally, what you believe means nearly nothing. What you do is who you are

Leader's perspective on the culture isn’t relevant — that’s rarely what your people experience

The real question is what employees have to do to survive and succeed?

One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are — Steve Jobs

Startups who outsource engineering almost always fail

It’s easy to build an app or a website that meets the specificat
Carl Rannaberg
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
It was not as good as a book as Hard Things About Hard Things. But it reminded about many principles of how to create a culture in an organization. For example, your culture is what you tolerate. When you tolerate repeated bad behavior then you can expect it happening more often and spread all over you organization.
Also, your culture is how your actions are interpreted, not what your intentions are. This makes a good point about thinking about how your actions are percieved and not what you are
Szymon Kulec
Sep 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow. An awesome walk-the-talk book about culture. Brings several histories from different periods of history and shows how leaders built up the cultures in different environments. This is nicely mixed with author's endeavors and discussed in depth to make it applicable.

Even with the rap quotations starting each chapter, and a bit far reaching narrative about Japanese qualities in one point (no mention of Deming), this book sends a strong wake up signal to anyone lost in a maze of a company cultu
Nov 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
What a mess. What a waste of time. He berated Hillary Clinton for taking responsibility for things that weren’t enticing her control and lauds Mary Barra, who spent 38 years in multiple departments but had no idea people died for over ten years due to a Design defect, threw a few engineers under the bus and got millions, for her dress code. Praises managers who fire good workers for giving them good references. Genghis Khan?
This book is full of messed up ideas and it’s horrifying to know that e
Greg Bae
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bae-ovation, 2019
In short summary: What you say means far less than what you do. Culture begins with deciding what you value most. Then you must help everyone in your organization to get there. Creating culture is being a leader.

Ben Horowitz writes in an interesting style that is engaging and broad in its examinations of various unexpected sources of culture cultures, like bushido samurai and Haitian slave rebellion. The Shaka Senghor chapter was so good, especially with the Audible narrator.

At times I forgot th
Jacek Bartczak
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I don't how people behave in this company" - if you have ever said that it means that book is for you. I've never had a pleasure to meet such tangible content about the company's culture.

I guess there are CEOs / managers who won't like it - books included many suggestions about how a leader's actions and consequence determine how employees approach to the company look like.

"The hard thing..." was more spectacular, but that book is still a must-read for anyone who cares how his teammates behave
Philip Joubert
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read dozens of management books and Ben Horowitz's latest book is unique among them. He writes in a real, no-bullshit way about the messy real-life situations that nobody else talks about. As an entrepreneur reading this book I felt both deeply understood by him and challenged in a profound way.

Ben leads with examples far removed from the tech world, using Toussaint L'Ouverture (Haitian Revolution), Genghis Khan, Shaka Senghor (prison gang leader) and the Sumurai. The decision to use those
Jan 30, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-kindle, business
This book will alienate people with sensibilities about history and violence.

This confidently contrarian, narrow representation of historical events screams of Silicon Valley’s dismissal of the complexity of issues and expert opinion. The populous’s frustrations with these attitudes contributes to the polarized political climate of today.

I get that history is the lies we agree to, but the author isn’t faithful to collecting a variety of perspectives. The author takes some of the worst atrocities
Sven Kirsimäe
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: at-audible
A must-read for anyone interested in how company or group cultures are created. Nice set of examples, easy read/listen.

Long story short: list of values or listing values does not create culture. What happens and what is done, especially when you're outside of the room, is the culture and that is mostly build based on "leading by example" not by the wishful thinking and promotion of "these are our values" lists.

For example, if we ask people to stay focused in the meetings and fail ourselves it mi
Faye Zheng
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
(Read for book club at work)
Trade-offs: On the one hand, Horowitz is not a historian and the way he chose to structure the book was bizarre. On the other, there were enough good nuggets of food for thought (scattered throughout but mostly in last 3 chapters) that it made for a healthy book club discussion with colleagues.
Sebastian Gebski
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I respect BH as a very smart person with incredible experience. Even people who have so much to share don't have to be great in sharing - fortunately BH is. I don't like his interviews, I find some of his references (especially hip-hop song citations) annoying, but in the end - both his books ("The hard things ..." & "What you do ...") are absolutely stellar - I can only recommend them.

"What you do ..." is a book about culture. Defining it (up to the level it's possible ...), cultivating it, thr
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had a feeling that I would like the book and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the fact that it wasn’t just thoughts and experiences from the author but it was backed and illustrated with historical stories and facts about what culture is and how it impacts where the group with the culture gets to.

The book definitely made me think about our company’s values, what works, what doesn’t, why and how really good values look like.

One thing I hadn’t thought about before is the idea that company values
Moh. Nasiri
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A journey through "culture", from ancient to modern.
فرهنگ سازمانی
Never underestimate the importance of a business’s culture. Examples past and present show that culture should be much more than just a list of values pinned to the wall: it should be a set of virtues that underpins everything your business does. That’s because it’s our actions – what we do, not what we say or feel – that define who we are.
Andrea Carlevato
Jul 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-learning
Worth reading but below expectations.
Michał Korba
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book about building Culture in your Organization.
Tõnu Vahtra
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
The good thing about this book are the direct intriguing questions that Horowitz makes you ask, in that matter the book is similar to his other book The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Moving forward: "If you cannot get a decision from lower levels come directly to me and I'll promise to get back to you within a week" ->things immediately started moving in the organization.

“I hear you and, quite frankly, I agree with you, but I was overruled by the powers that be.” This is absolutely toxic to the
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the most in depth book about culture I've found. But it's not as good as his other book. I do like the thesis: culture is actions not beliefs so you have to keep readjusting.

"One difficult in enforcing integrity is that it's a concept without boundaries. You can't pat yourself on the back for treating your employees ethically if you're simultaneously lying to your customers because your employees will pick up on the discrepancy and start lying to each other. The behaviors must be univers
Sourabh Ghorpade
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

The Good:
* The author points out great points about how culture can have unintended consequences (Uber’s “win at all costs” leading to uneithical practices.
* He also raises the interesting points on the difficulty in following things like being honest to employees(a la Yudishtir from Mahabharat). And an interesting point on how tacky situations by putting out a cause / meaning for something like layoff before other people. This is of
Dec 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, business
Ben Horowitz enjoyed the success of his previous book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (which I liked), but he didn't have enough material to write a new one. So he read a few biographies, regurgitated them, linked it to tech companies, and then ran out of steam and started giving generic advice. ...more
Maciek Wilczyński
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This time, Ben Horowitz aimed to explain company culture. Again, his thoughts are crystal clear and profound as they're based on his experience, rather than scientific research. I buy it.
His book is written in a very specific, yet interesting format. There is a visible storytelling approach:
1) Do you know the story about "some known, yet not common knowledge historical fact"?
2) Here is what happened in this story!
3) There is more! We can learn something from it
4) Case study of XX/XXI century
Stefan Bruun
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
Having read The Hars Thing About Hard Things multiple times, I had such high hopes for this book.i must say I was disappointed.

The book is much more descriptive than prescriptive and action oriented (as I would have expected from an entrepreneur and VC). Also, it is close to become a cliche of a classic "airport business book" in its use of examples from historical figures.

Disappointed. This could have been so much better and useful.
Rebecca Gold
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found myself quoting this book even halfway through. Most of the ideas are familiar, but what sets it apart are the examples. I find most business books to be dry, but this was engaging through the end.
Ilia Markov
May 05, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
More content marketing than real book
Jonathan Lu
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Worthy followup to "the hard thing about hard things" that still is one of the 5 best leadership books I've ever read. Where Ben Horowitz dug deeply into the challenge of management, leadership, and decision making in his last book, he digs deeply into what comprises a company culture in this one. Featuring examples of Touissant Louverture converting slave culture to military culture in the only successful slave revolt; Samurai Bushido culture and its lasting impact on Japanese culture across 10 ...more
Bailey L.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this book quite a bit, in the same sort of way I liked his first book. It has a lot in it that is helpful regardless of what kind of company you are in, but some of his material is really specific only to SV or tech companies.
Stories about specific values statements helped me to understand better what it looks like to be clear about what the culture is as a leader. The story below is one such example from the book:
'So he came up with a pithy axiom: “If you cannot see your car from your
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tips for organizational culture from the co-founder of a16z, one of the top VC firms. Like his previous book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", this too is filled with battle stories from the start-up world, but here the focus is also on specific leaders in history who achieved amazing feats of changing culture: Louverture of Haitian Revolution (the only successful slave revolt in modern history), the samurai code (lasted for a good 800 years), Genghis Khan (lessons in inclusion), Shaka Shengko ...more
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Ben Horowitz is the cofounder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs building the next generation of leading technology companies. The firm's investments include Airbnb, GitHub, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Previously, he was cofounder and CEO of Opsware, formerly Loudcloud, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard fo ...more

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139 likes · 50 comments
“Culture is not like a mission statement; you can’t just set it up and have it last forever. There’s a saying in the military that if you see something below standard and do nothing, then you’ve set a new standard. This is also true of culture—if you see something off-culture and ignore it, you’ve created a new culture.” 18 likes
“There’s a saying in the military that if you see something below standard and do nothing, then you’ve set a new standard.” 10 likes
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