What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture
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
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 ...more
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.
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
This book is full of messed up ideas and it’s horrifying to know that e ...more
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.
"What you do ..." is a book about culture. Defining it (up to the level it's possible ...), cultivating it, thr ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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.
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 ...more
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 ...more
"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 ...more
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 ...more
It is very hard to write about culture. There are many ways of achieving the same thing, and many very different cultures that will work, depending on the leader and the people inside the business. So to write about culture generally is very hard, but Ben brilliantly achieved this.
It is sometimes dangerous to retrospectively fit a story to the past to make it seem plausible. Narrative fallacy is the technical term for it. Ben does use stories to illustrates principles, and ...more
I picked this up because Ben's first book was a gem.
I am usually cautious of such books which try and deliver a message by focusing 80% of the time on examples (and over-glorifying the person or company in the example). Additionally, some of the statements and messages were over-simplifications, while attributing success to "one" reason.
Regardless, there were s ...more
Horowitz does a great job using these historical examples coupled with modern business case studies to illustrate his points. He also couples this analysis with a strong emphasis that quality corpo ...more
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. ...more