Episode 7: Is Bottom Up Innovation Really Possible at GOJEK?
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Episode 7: Is Bottom Up Innovation Really Possible at GOJEK?



welcome to go figure my name is Nadine McCarran CEO and Founder go-jek Southeast Asia's first super app go Jack does ride-hailing food delivery payments even on-demand massages you name it you do it go figure is a podcast dedicated to expose the inner workings of ambitious tech companies in the emerging world we like to talk about things we like and talk about things together there are a lot of myths out there that we want to dispel so keeping it real is kind of a mantra hope you enjoy hey guys welcome to go figure very very excited about this podcast we got Adjei Gauri in the house our global CTO hi Jai how are you thank you for coming by thank you for having me oh yes thank you very much and we have a seadoo our head of global talent and head of India office who has already made an appearance and our podcast as well today is a topic that is very close to my heart a topic that I feel is very vague and very buzz worthy and yet not many people have broken it down into more scientific terms and we're gonna talk today about culture we're gonna talk about company culture this has been a buzzword keeps being used everywhere and around but if if I had to ask any average person in our company or outside about what it means to have a great company culture everyone will will spit out a different response okay everyone has a at some points wildly different views about what constitutes a good culture and a bad culture and so I don't want to say good or bad in our discussions but I want to define it as high-performing cultures and low-performing cultures right first of all I want to kick off the conversation why is culture so important in our organization what is it what what is it and why is it so important how do we even begin to define this so you know just like I said everyone's going to have a different answer so caveated up front this is mine I only want standardized answers boring boring answer not gonna happen yeah so so the way I like to think about it now and this is something which is evolved over time is in the beginning I honestly thought it was fluff I thought this is this I mean I'm a programmer right I started as a programmer I've been coding since I was a kid and yeah this is some management fluff nonsense and over time I started to realize that in an organization there are certain things that you want people to do and certain things you don't want them to do and usually you try to define these through processes and policies but the scope number of things that you can or cannot do is so vast that if you attempt to codify all of it into a policy either you get this mess book of rules and it's still incomplete which people don't grasp or follow its an applicable or you create this horrible bureaucracy or a combination thereof so for me cultures everything that isn't process or policy but that still defines what you do or don't do defines what you do or how you do it or how you do it you know you know the choices you make every day but it has to be manifest in a in an activity yes an ambition yeah the results of it these are decisions which people make several times a day hundreds of times sometimes and you can codify all of them it's the stuff that you don't codify what what do people do for those decisions that's the culture right so culture first of all first rule of culture culture isn't something that is individual and kept inside your heart or your mind at all times culture is a outward manifestation of a shared set of values yes I'm the only way to identify it is through action what do we do yes what do we do all you can say a culture is a collective expression of a group hmm you can look at it the way so basically whenever you look say what is the picture of this country or this company or this place what you define by when you meet a bunch of people from that a specific organization how do they express yourself and how did how do they go about expressing themselves within the organization so you can actually codify it or you can say it like culture this collective expression of a group in a certain way and that's what actually differentiates them with the different kind of operations so it has to be somewhat unique to that organizing otherwise it's not a culture it's something shared within that culture cultures can be similar between companies some fruits can be similar but they're never the same okay right I mean why do the trains run on time in some countries and why do they not run on time in other countries is it in the Constitution no it isn't yet there are countries where the trains run on time they don't so you're saying that trains running on time or no is a manifestation of culture look now let's put it down to codifying thing punctuality is a culture is a culture yeah if you look at punctuality like how much serious waiters people leaders do to punk being punctual being on time if you start doing that repetitively then punctuality becomes part of culture it becomes that one codified DNA that this organization spunk okay so that's the second telltale the first telltale it has to manifest into action it's not a thought a feeling it has to be a collective instead of action the second thing is what you just said is that it has to be repeated yes right there has either registered consistent or relatively consistent right and by the members that belong to that culture it will generally behave in a certain way for example it cannot be consistent across and then when it's not a consistent across and what happens is when its majority constant consistent that other people start following on yeah so lot of time the culture is something which gets codified in early days and whatever your time it kind of become rules and then if you have this manifestation of challenging things then culture cultivates and motivates people and also molds around the way so whatever culture you have today maybe go jet at the DNA level will still have that culture down the line say 10 years but the main space station of expression of that culture will very different it can be there as well so evolves it evolves it can evolve yes and in many ways it probably should involve has to write it has to evolve because it's there's no it's not a set rule book it's how the collective has decided to behave with one another and externally and it's very rarely that culture is set by the minority there are very narrow situations where a minority can set the culture for the majority it's almost always the majority norm that defines the culture aha but here comes their interesting point there is a paradigm or set of beliefs that think that culture is very much top-down right or not very much top-down but it begins at the top yeah we've heard this many times culture begins at the top early days sure yeah and later days do not so suppose I'll give an example suppose we get somebody else heading a big organization and he wants to have what she wants to have their own way of working it will punctuality punctuality for example if everybody's lazy or actually doesn't come on time and then somebody one day one boss comes in we have to be doing my name so so it is early days also matters so culture also depends on things like so if you look at us the way we grew over culture over period of time and last three and a half four years is more about all of us collectively it was not like that we opened some books and we gotta do this tomorrow onwards we did not do that we all of us had our own traits and also culture is kind of melting part of the good values across all the leaders and people so basically over the period of time what we did we kind of adopted nice things from everybody and kind of discarded things which did not work out and that's what actually comes out as a culture so basically it's a if you look at if you look at nature right it's survival of the fittest right same way it is and the through mutations like if you look at grizzly bear versus what is that beer right there black bear or a polar bear right the polar bears mutation happen with polar bear they became white and they survive right so culture is also like that you have this doing mutations within the leaders within the people and then finally the best thing comes out so this is like a social Darwinism yeah absolutely that behaves in it so there's a self selection process that happens to it so that you're you're talking about this as a much more organic kind of you know factor of evolution almost accidental but when we look at the books when we look at all the business school academia etc this is something you have to harness shape direct like and how do you reconcile the topic I can never deny that I have seen manifest in the organization multiple things that I've noticed our core leadership team doing like I can't deny that like there's definitely a role model influencer doesn't doesn't mean that we define all the culture no but there are traits of the culture that I see that is reflected through our Castle I have I have a favorite example which I said it's frankly it's one of the reasons why I work here right it's not that you know I'm spoiled I'm not spoiled for choice which is and I noticed this in the early days which is you know someone proposes a feature or a change to the product to the app that exploits the driver and I've seen you especially in the early days when you know we were all on the group's together you know discussing these things or debating these things or making these calls where you would jump on that person immediately and say we will not do things which harm our drivers we are not going to go zero-sum on our drivers but we don't do that and then over time I notice the strain very clearly that there is this very clear bias to removing or eliminating choices that harm our drivers you know there is there is no conversation that happens in Gajic that lasts for any length of time which involves hey let's do this exploitative thing which gives us an advantage on gmv or whatever I pick a metric at the cost of a driver that survives for any length of time and you're no longer in those groups yeah so how did that happen that's for me a great example and like I said you know it's one of the reasons I okay I don't think that's a very common trait in in ride-sharing companies I'll give you another example if you look at this we recently like four quarters no eight quarters BAM they start looking at okay ours it was not there with us okay ours our objectives and key results yeah yes I get setting yeah and we started looking at those as one of the ways we can operate them ourselves and make sure that we are we are rational across product roadmaps and we are rational across all the data and everything else and that is stuck on that is stuck on because it was the right thing to do and many many man if you if you think it's just top down it will it would have not been top down unless people somewhere it's in it right so over the period of time what happens then like the basic manifesto or the basic what do you say principles which we won't deviate from are very simple we will adopt good things which are good for all of us we will never go and do anything which it does harm to our customers merchants our drivers I still never early days when we used to suspend drivers of we used to do something with customers you so if so in all about it go find the go find the reason why did you do this how can you log out 500 drivers that are important and the number will is small that point of time but we still take care of the steep right so over the period of time if you look at culture culture is manifestation of good things into adoption for organization and then collectively expressing that as a right thing for everybody else without having a written without having to turn and so culture is essentially a far more superior tool of manage it's not a tool management it's a but it's it's a farmer efficient school scalable way of creating shared behavior than any other thing this I agree the no amount of like guide books manuals ten core values whatever it is those are things that can help scale up maybe the initial founding teams are the initial leadership teams notion of what good behavior is of what the correct behavior is but if you don't codify behavior is culturally then you will always have to define it through processes and policies which are hugely inefficient and just not scalable they're not for example how many times you have next somebody good because not effective most time correct and how much ice we got is literally the number one reason why people are let go and go Jack how many times we have you never – exactly would you find the template saying you did not check this box it's really hard good so the culture is a manifestation of exhibition and when somebody does not express the way we want them to express or somebody does not accept our expressions that's what a misfit for that happens okay let's let's double click on that cuz that's a perfect way maybe a backdoor way of describing what culture is let's talk about letting go of people because they don't fit our culture right what's usually the reason like pick the last three people even and what are the top maybe three reasons so when you ask when someone says oh why that person get let go oh he's really wasn't a cultural fit when you asked then okay so what did he do that in sure what are they usually usually it is they violated one of our values mm-hmm ethics integrity so that is one one part of measure second they violated one of the principles where we actually wanted them to do something and they didn't do it and not because we felt it is wrong but their team failed is so it is organization driven it's a team driven and third thing which always I have seen is that they we are not happy because they could not find a place in our organization because they are not used to doing those things so they maybe come from a very different culture which may not be wrong because that is quite a big one yeah and there are a lot of companies out there who behave very differently that's right and that's what these are the three reasons we all you don't necessarily need to be a bad manager or a bad leader or a poor performer per se ya know you may you may encounter huge amounts of cultural friction yes right this concept of cultural friction in an organization that is completely different and I've seen this happen to a lot of senior hires that we have when they're coming in and they start they come from from a much more hierarchical culture a much more almost like revering leadership culture which is not go j and they start shooting out orders yes they come in here and they start saying okay I've been in a very structured way even politely right they're just going like oh we should do this does this you do that you do that you do that in a very shoot shoot first you know ask questions later company culture and then they get frustrated because no one actually does it and what happens one more thing is their reporting line which we don't have but whoever works with them to start reaching out to you or me or somebody else and they don't like it as well yeah that also happens like how did you actually bypass me and go and our culture is being very transparent very open so our culture allows and of let people operate in that manner and they are like don't know why but they don't like it yeah so maybe from where the game was perfectly fine thing but over here they're not perfect it if you can adopt their lot of leaders we have we have got they adopted very fast they realize the value of being open they realized the value of being transparent they realize the value of being open that means they can if somebody goes and talks to us or somebody else they can get more help they don't see demeaning they see very useful and but I think I think it's important ajaita to put a caveat to this by saying like not all of the elements of our company culture are necessarily the best there's no such it's hard to define that's why again there's no such thing as like bad culture poor culture there are there are call but if you're coming in without the ability to adapt to an existing culture you will almost inadvertently fail yeah but there is something about your advisors so the biggest example that hierarchical thing is the consequence of that cultural trait of ours is that it takes a longer time to get people to buy in to what you want to do in ICT you need to spend time explaining the why the reason how it fits to the bigger vision the urgency and all of this stuff it takes a lot longer for a leader to start executing once they come into good but once they start executing everyone gets the buy-in we never but you know for people who come in with that background they're very used to having to align upwards but they're unused to having to align sideways and downwards right which is an expectation here yeah right I mean and in most and to be honest Lee knows most Asian professional cultures it's very easy yeah exactly it's a very alien to have – why do I have to justify what a pain yeah why do I tell you say you're you're a young kid I'm obviously hired to be above you yeah and I have more experience than you why do you argue yeah but if you look at if you look at one of the values which we believe in is bottom-up innovation if we don't facilitate then that thing then we would have never been where we are you didn't never allowed the bottom-up innovation you never you would have killed the ideas from ground up infancy stage itself because they were I never reached anywhere like the way I like to think about it is you have effective and ineffective cultures which is in the context of what that organization is attempting to achieve yes but an effective culture may not be necessarily pleasant for somebody coming in from another effective culture yes it is not a commentary on whether a culture is right or wrong cultures are effective or ineffective given the goals of the organization but it doesn't mean that one effective culture will translate well for someone familiar with it who moves to another effective culture yes I'll do it it's very strange how there is almost like you take the analogy of a foreign invader or a pathogen inside a body right and I don't mean this in like a negative way it's just it's it's analogous the mechanism as soon as they're a very different culture base enters another culture base which is different to them there is almost this automatic autoimmune response yes have you noticed this like oh yeah and I can't put my finger on how it happens but people start coming up to me or you and say hey this guy you know how do i how do I really deal with it or this guy or girl and and there's this natural almost like it's not a rejection right out but it is creating inflammation yep you immediately see that happening and that's when you know your culture is thick dude I mean the body treats you as of like a foreign pathogen coming into side right yeah so any time a leader joins us especially in Anjar p.m. Department and they ask me what is what or anywhere else and they reach out to me and what is your first advice you would hear me so I said for first four weeks observe the next four weeks absorb and then after that and that is very important because you have to become one before you can execute like yes and whoever lot of times people have come back to me senior leadership has come back to saying that was a really nice advice you gave me yeah because and then I told them if you would have just gone ahead and act on things the way you see on surface you will start assuming lot of things yeah once you assume anything you always assume one thing in negative connotation you always think why this cup is here why this cup is on the book and you were kind of imagine idiot he did it like that but there is reason for it if you ask me why I can tell you right now why because doesn't make a noise over here right same way in our organization there are a lot of things we have we have 36 months old or 48 months old we are like a baby elephant who just started walking and doesn't know where to look for and one of the biggest thing which we have learned over the period of time is every time when we have done some mistake there is a valid very valid reason for it yeah when a leadership comes from outside and they see these five things the way they are done and they're absolutely wrong because it's not done somewhere else if they don't have that self well absorb they will never realize the reason for it and once they realize the reason for it they can actually empathize and correct it in much better way than doing a knee-jerk reaction it's also why you know we we almost as a matter of policy now expect leadership to spend time in the trenches executing for some percentage of their time for exactly this reason it's why on the engineering side we we have this rule that says that everyone must spend time coding irrespective of how senior they are abstracted away from the day-to-day stuff they are you need to spend some percentage of your time writing code because otherwise you will not understand why certain decisions are being made by other people because it's not obvious at the surface and there is no scalable way to surface surface that even even for our drivers remember what we did so when we did Ron's go car we made Kevin drive around yeah so you know one of the incident would happen Kevin was a lady got him as a driver and then she took him to laundromat and made him wait over there she looked two minutes I'll come back and she made him wait made him wait me a laundromat I hear like super frustrated is like this is what about drivers go through we need to fix this and then later on what we did we send bunch of our PMS on the road as a go right drivers and they were like getting super frustrated this app is like this what all drivers go through and that kind of empathy observe and absorb works really well if it can work well there it has to work well in the organization as well and that's what defines our culture because we treat everybody equally when they come in we make sure that this there is no question on the intent and don't assume anything if you look at this this is our culture but how do you define this you can't codify it it can't be handed down from generation to generation in startups like us generation is only six months – it was because of you you're infusing new people all the time so that's what happens and that's what kind of becomes culture so people know we are do right thing we don't have to assume we have don't had a question people's intent where to go ask why this happened instead of why are you not doing this with those kind of things and that is openness transparency like when you go and talk in our town halls and we are very transparent about our numbers what we are doing we will get that conferencing look this is what we are we don't when our leadership does not hide anything from us then why we should hide anything from them and that's why how many times we had down times right we did have down times how many times you went and talked to so many engineers and you got the same answer it was not a conservatory it has just being transparency is a culture because what we did we put our psychological safety or there and that is part of culture now if you start talking about these things then these tenets of cultural start coming out I used to be super first so for the listeners whenever any downtime you know I had I came from a kind of conventional professional managed background and so I would triangulate things that happened because I made the assumption that there was something other there was something else that people won't tell the leader or the boss what's really happening and so I think several times in gojek I went that like three or four different people asking okay what happened really what happened really and when I got the same response after that there when I'm like I felt really bad okay so they are telling the truth like and this isn't to say that you know in that particular example this isn't to say that there aren't effective cultures that that you know do not need this kind of a hands-on coding for example there are very effective cultures that function where leadership does not code but we have an effective culture where leaders do code yeah and and it's again like your point that you said it depends on what the goal is and I believe we've hit this critical point whereby the complexity of our business is at such a high level that the deffend the very definition of a performance culture needs to be dramatically different because we've hit that point whereby leaders trying to exert the more our top leaders try to absorb decision-making the worst outcomes we will again yeah because we're so far away from the actual problem yeah at this stage so so along this lines how do we then define what a high-performing team is for a you know like awesome top twenty private company in terms of validation in the world tech tech company at that size what defines and at that level of interdependency that level of complexity what defines a high-performing culture and if we can define what that culture is why don't we break it down one level down and say what are the high-performing beliefs or behaviors that we believe can can take us and be able to make sense of this complexity and succeed as a business actually look at our values well that's what values are values are in our core values are a reflection or an attempt the good or bad I don't know but a attempt an effort to codify what we believe to be the positive elements of our culture so in that sense if you look at one other biggest to which I take our to of them is walk the talk we want our leaders to talk right second we want them to on the TAT yeah these are two things that means earn your title um your value yes if they want to earn it under title and if they're gonna walk the talk that means they should be practitioner there should be draftsman this should be making and refining their skills all the time if you look around all of our leaders are actually doing that they are in the trenches at people they are the role models for their departments and that's why it defines that way if you and that's why we are the way we are that's why we are the small team doing operating such a large business right if you don't do that if I start putting my my walk the talk skills aside and starting making sure I have proxies to know of the talk and they have their proxies to walk this off so we'll end up with such a big large team because I am NOT doing my work and there are a lot of companies out there with our valuation and our size which have six times the teams and teams but like we are we are only three had people there are people out there comparatively companies out there who are 2225 hundred three thousand people why is that the reason is that because those people believe or those people figure out that they can hire somebody else to walk their talk and then they start creating these layers and layers and layers of the people around them so you know what happens what end up happening they actually spend seventy five percent of their time fixing things why we spend seventy five percent of time creating things building building things because for them the feedback loop is so long by the time they get there is something wrong yeah they throw more bodies that's really interesting like so if a culture is nothing more than the collective behavioral expression of the people within that culture then you can theoretically hire your way out of a culture yes yes right absolutely you can if you decided to double your head count within like a year or less than a year yeah you could essentially remove or destroy whatever vestige of your culture that you had that was working for you absolutely right the scalability of a culture then you reset again from zero you have to read of mine again then you have noise that's really interesting right because I think a lot of people's mindset is about talent when we talk about talent we're looking at one end of the equation only we're looking at how do we hire hire hire the best talent the best time the best song when actually the mechanism for high-performing teams in general is also what is fundamentally at core of their culture yeah and if you hire too quickly or if you Archer grill or if you hire leaders too aggressively then you are diluting that culture by default I want more than to say or they don't have so what happens is when or if you're lucky enough to find people who match connect so what happens is when we say higher higher higher if you are not careful about this humans actually optimize for this matrix you are measuring them for so what have you say that again humans optimized for the matrix you are measuring them humans optimized for the matrix the matrix is a matrix you are measuring you are measuring them for correct so what happens down the line third level when it reaches to a recruiter his matrix is I had to hire people right so he's focus on numbers now once you start focusing a number and number level one hour is also focus on numbers then they're gonna hire the numbers what we should optimize for this skill right but that's why it go Jack we don't have there's many people because we are very particular movie hire in terms of every ethnic for example when you have a leader we make sure they're Internet twenty people not because we really are very email about it but because we want to make sure as much as we are sure that this is the right person for us they should be sure that this is the right company for yes right and once you start optimizing for matrix which is a skill then you will get this kind of high-performing culture and high-performing team but if you start optimizing for the numbers then you will get high performance numbers that's all but that I don't know how much time you'll waste in terms of onboarding those people and how much time will you will waste in terms of figuring out what they so there is a there is a very interesting paradox in this which is which is something that I've observed so you know before I got into go check up consulted across many different companies many different scales and and something that it took me a long time to grasp was that you know we talked about this at the start that culture are the processes and policies that you do not define it's everything else because your processes and policies are always a tiny subset of what you actually use for decision making so when you start hiring very very quickly and this is my engineering bias right like I tend to look at this as a distributed computing problem when and I look at culture as the software that runs on your people versus the software that runs on your hardware and when you're running software on hardware one of the problems you face in distributed computing is how do I synchronize and how do I build consensus because I have all of these different servers which are running software with different states and if they're not in sync the end result is different customers may see completely different experiences because the numbers are different so in software you have this this problem in in industry in distributed computing around building consensus now when you start bringing more and more people into the system what ends up happening is people take time to absorb the software that's running on other people building consensus involves loading that software onto people you call this onboarding you can call this in Dutch call it what have you right you're making sound matrix man I made a very I like to think I am right yeah it's my bias so so what ends up happening is as you start hiring a lot of people in very quickly there isn't time for that consensus to build and so what happens is your organization starts devolving to depend entirely on your policies yeah and the matrix the performance metrics that you set in say your compensation policy is an example of that into a J's point what ends up happening is people start optimizing for your formally defined processes and policies which always always especially in fast-growing companies will skew the system in very very nasty unpredictable ways because the damping effect of culture which is all of your undefined processes and policies which is the worst majority of them does not have time to synchronize across all these new people that have come in yeah and so the organization starts to skew in very strange unpredictable ways because you have the small set of processes and policies now shaping everything and I think one of the biggest downsides of companies that either don't have a strong or thick culture or or actively foster it which we'll get into in the second half of this discussion but for those companies I find that the natural instinct is just to motivate engagement and performance through financial incentives and that leads to all kinds of problems Soviet Union Wow that's what happened to a Soviet Union centrally planned economies don't scale I think that gunning for metrics is probably one of them and linking compensations metrics is one of the most dangerous things to do in management I'm not saying it's not always a good idea yeah but I am saying that most of the time that I've seen the bad outweighs yeah you have unintended consequence a huge amount of unintended consequences and I think that that is the compensating factor when you don't have strong cultural dynamics right that foster engagement and that's the point that I want to say right now like strong cultures I think personally and please challenge me if you disagree but I think that strong cultures build the most powerful sense of belonging in groups and they do did when when I can see my behavior reciprocated or mirrored in my day-to-day interactions with other people yeah I feel that we share something when we share something I feel intimacy just when I feel intimacy I feel like I belong yes and when I feel like I belong that to me is one of the most powerful characteristics of a high-performing culture because like I read this recent book by Daniel Coyle I believe called the culture code a really great book would recommend it to anyone and basically he one of the concepts that came about there was how high-performing cultures stem from the sense of your psychological safety being connected psychological safety can volunteer Billy is a big point this is a three section and then a sense of common purpose common groups so it's kind of like this concept of belonging somewhere it's one of the most powerful things to get individuals and teams to behave autonomously right I feel safe making decisions in this environment and though those decisions aren't codified and protected by policy yes I'll give example but the class here Nadine was debating something and end team actually went up to him saying this is not right any team is engineering teams people the audience doesn't know what edge to you oh yeah okay Freud engineering team included so we at cosette have pretending team which actually fertile membrane plus engineering plus design does everything we make them one right because we don't want silos that is our part culture as long so engineered into invented Nazim saying this this is not right we're not going to do that and they put very objectively things and over the period of time we discuss this like for like maybe one day and then we agreed yes to you what you guys are saying right the only way it is possible if they have all these three things which he said psychological safety being connected together and we don't have like no sense of insecurity that those kind of things will define us that way right but when you think now then you can go this is what is this what art equation is but if you go overboard or you go little bit further then you'll again figure out what the hell our culture is so you'll always have these things you can think and codify but a time you start codifying you can codify like only 50% of it not rest on 40 do you remember when you know in the first year when systems went AWOL all the time because we could not handle the load in our first year when the apples launched and I used to do these massive whatsapp rants yes where I was deeply punitive in both my language and in my you know what was that running joke that he was typing dot dot dot yeah yeah so if people's doesn't know if you're on whatsapp group yeah we are on watch I'm sorry if your reward subgroup and somebody's typing it comes on the title saying this guy's typing and when we had down time the only thing which come on talk continuously is MIDI in this time you know like multi page multi-page rants typed out sorry I was a young founder again I mean experience so basically I I was so verbally abusive whenever it things with the hope of creating the sense of gravity no you know how sad right and I noticed one of the things that by doing this by penalizing mistakes essentially what I was doing and creating huge amounts of anxiety and net present I began noticing that people were sharing less of the mistakes on my group they were sharing it with other groups but not on my wets after right that was and I begun noticing that people were not being upfront with me anymore in many ways like they were kind of sugarcoating some of the the situation and the gravity of the problems and I began to notice that you know they were coming up to other people around me to get advice and help instead of going directly to me and so in that very early phase of our of my founding journey I very quickly realized that creating a sense of psychological unsafety was detrimental actually not only did it make people burnout it also made people lose trust and being able to be open in a form and because of that stress I caused other groups started popping up whereby there was psychological safety you you also created managing Nadeem experts yes like there were these people in the org expertise was managing Nadine and so everyone would go through them there are bunch of people who have to played that part in last year yeah yeah and and that's not good because that's extra friction right that's factor for you you're not creating a culture whereby people are safe to make mistakes cetera and you know I I reluctantly changed my ways and it really I saw firsthand the impact on on culture of sharing downtime sharing a root cause rca's and root cause analysis on on what happened there that's Brian and I did something very simple whereby every time you know a lot of times over email or when someone said we had an outage or there was this bad deploy or we made a mistake on an assumption of something and we messed up you know just simply saying a thank you for this thank you for fixing it thank you for telling me thank you for addressing it it had a massive I think that I can feel and I couldn't describe how I feel I just felt this change in behavior that allowed okay I'm making a statement as a leader that it is okay and is appreciated because we get to learn all from your mistake so thank you thank you for sharing that with us it's okay you keep taking risks guys and one of the challenges I faced as someone who's come from a detective in background who spent most of his time doing non Ange stuff because I work on people I work on that kind of stuff was interestingly bringing the RCA culture there you know it took I literally had to become this caricature I had to become the RCA guy and establish this precedent that I will demand an RCA for every failure of employee experience and there will be no negative consequence to that RCA right there will only be a negative consequence to a trend of RCA's where the same problem repeats itself over and over again without redressal right in and trying to move that migrate that culture from engine to non engine was a endeavor like I said I literally had to create this caricature personality whose response would always be this I need in our cities so those the RCA guy can you imagine in like business 1.0 people would companies would actually incentivize that team for how many of those failures got reported and trying to bring it down yeah so what happened they didn't get reported yep right if you if that's that's the dangerous part about it so what you're saying is that you did that and you made it explicit to your team that there will be no consequences to the actual issues that were faced yes only if it happened over a long period of time yep and recurring and and my incentives were set on employee experience not on reducing the number of fairs right because that just leads to things being hidden because a lower reported number means we're doing well whereas positively incentivizing and actually even repeating this idea that what we care about is how do our colleagues feel when they come into the office how do they feel when they fly into another office and how do they feel when they have to go to this hotel in this city they've never been to and how do they feel when they come into work led to more positive response and that was purely cultural there's no process of policy that talks about this right what what in your mind is the mechanism by which psychological safety creates higher performance why is that I mean a a lot of people you know in traditional business excetera there's always this sense of even a lot of founders which I and I was part of this group for a while believed that a certain dose of fear of leadership a certain dose of I guess Brigade or like bravado sorry bravado and and explosiveness should always there should always be that slight fear to your leadership but the more I read books about this the more I look at behavioral psychology the more I learn about child psychology and now that I'm a father now I'm beginning to read a lot into that as well is that actually the fundamental prerequisite of creativity and true state of flow is pure psychological safe absolutely I mean this you know this is this opinion of mine is somewhat controversial but I'll say it anyway right in systems and organizations where you're dealing with a completely solved problem where the system is clear there is no evolution and there is little or no need for creativity fear scales and if you look at what you were calling business 100 most companies either already had a salt system or they thought they did and that meant that fear actually scaled or they believed it did I have one more thing on that so what happens is if you look at the kind of companies we are these kind of companies did not exist 20-30 years absolutely they did not what existed 20 years back for 300 years or 500 years who was the space labor force where where the workers were optimized for the output and the doctor output did not have creativity at all in fact the objective was to remove as much creativity for the suit on the system as possible it is it is still in manufacturing industry where you have this conveyor belt and people just do one task the whole day solder one bolt all the time right now if you instill fear there they will work faster because there's no creativity right now you take the at practice and bring it to practice of where you have to create something right now when you want to create something and you instill fear creativity will have shortcuts right and once you creativity will have shortcuts you will make mistake if you make mistake yeah exactly and it's not just crazy I think sometimes we paint the picture of tech as if it's all about creativity and everyone's and like creative rooms designing amazing things it's when we talk about creativity to the audience I just want to be clear that it's not just ideation creativity is actually figuring out how to flexibly solve problems that you did not expect yes many people solution about a strategic and it would clean up that I mean intact what we call the creative economy and technique is actually because of the complexity the lack of predictability about what problems we face every day just forces us to encourage creativity because otherwise we'll end up having to solve is this one not all the stuff that you scaled by removing creativity and making it into a consistent repeated task and scale that by adding people to the system is now taken care of by hardware that's the point right those repeated tasks rerun on computers yes also when I say humans doing yeah the value had exactly complex thinking and I did not mean ng when I said that because if you look at all departments of our company today so looking at go check has this hyperbola start up all departments of company today have creativity whether it is end with us marketing with us pops yeah everyone like even if customer care they have creativity there because they need to evolve and you know it on how do they serve customers better how does it automated automate regular tasks how do they actually bring the strategic solution for long term problems and how do you reduce the issues right so in companies like us which did not exist 20 30 years back the creativity is a core of the DNA it is at the bottom of the core of the can center of the whole thing everybody actually has to percolate that culture right and when you look at creativity there is no place for anger amigo because if you bring these two things and it just dies yes yeah so that's what happened because it is a very specific subset of creativity coming which is group based creativity got it right it is not it is not an individual you know skewed right collaboration yes I like to say you know this is purely my this thing that you know there's this try factor that allows you to drive things which is love respect and fear and when you're on the more creative side of things you really need to dial down the fare and dial up the love and respect mmm yes and if you dial up the fear you automatically dial the others down and the creativity dies the creativity is fundamentally an iterative process of repeated failure until you hit success and if you have fear then you will not repeatedly fail until you succeed because you're afraid there is a price to pay emotional financial whatever but there is a price to pay for failure and that cost is real and that cost is real what about vulnerability what about this theme also in the book that the culture cookbook that I read there was this whole point it kind of codified a lot of the things we knew intuitively right why we instinctively say publicly that as leaders that meat hey guys I don't really know about this but right or when we go and we say you know guy my bad that was a total mistake I assume that wrong I thought that was gonna work and it did it right and seeing that behavior displayed of saying you know I messed up yeah and and that being okay where does that fit in where does vulnerability actually fit in into a jacuz where how does that translate into high performance so for me one er abilities is is a way of saying I iterate – hmm if I'm I'm literally telling you that I fail also you know it's very dangerous and that's fine and it's fine because in this kind of an environment there are two extremely bad outcomes – not exposing that true vulnerability right one is your risk setting yourself up as this distant unreachable figure who never screws up and somebody who never screws up will harshly judge someone who does that's the perception yes right so if you hide your failures from your colleagues your peers your seniors your juniors it means that the perception bills that you don't fail which is obviously false because in our kind of environment where we just do not know the real solutions to a problem at any level in the arc you become someone who's unapproachable yeah so I hope I don't feel like I belong yeah yeah in your perfect no perfect little worried I have another way to say this I always say and I we discussed this many mazwell I said like expression of vulnerability is manifestation of collaboration yeah I always say that like say that again expression of vulnerability is manifestation of collaboration I like that yeah because every time you express that you are vulnerable to something you will have your players collaborate with you to get you out of that situation if they know that aj is weak at this area i have people who will actually look out for me yeah and if people don't express their vulnerability then they will feel so badly because the ones covering you there is non-coding room and we have we have had few leaders who actually did not express a 20/20 they actually tried to overcome that vulnerability by painting of Falls facade and once the facade goes down they're exposed so badly that knodel is so you so you literally took the second second big risk out of my mouth right which is a leader or a decision-maker leaders actually a bad bad phrase any decision-maker who hides their failures will eventually no matter what they try to do end up exposing those failures and then we painted a hypocrite I'll then they will just feel like then nobody respects them to a test point and then you're done there's nothing you can do beyond that point you you you've got a tactical trajectory of success but it strategically trajectory of failure it doesn't have something to do with this kind of sense of camaraderie as well that if your leader does not share their failures that means they're not in the trenches with you at the problem nuclear right that means you so I just know it stinks you're not taking any any I mean someone who you cannot possibly be in the real-world trenches without feeling you're not in the ring with me yeah you're in an imaginary insulated world where you don't fail and that prevents collaboration and people feel when they look at someone a decision-maker who never fails after a while especially people who worked and been around for a bit to start to suspect this person this person has four guys because if they've never feel fall guys yeah but you guys didn't they blames you know because if they've never failed that's impossible that means every time they fill someone else has taken the blame someone's taking so I probably shouldn't be around this person because the question is when do I become the fall guy and that leads to the psychological safety how do you example ladies example how many times we had down times and how many times after those down times we had no chance on four of us and what did you do or there we collaborated to figure out how do I come out of that riot or you had the scholarship see the world in general anybody or we had glucose saying hey guys let's problem solve this yeah if I would have told you no no no no it's a hardware fault network went down not my fault after few times what would ever happen please trust correct not only time you would have never ever to bring your perspective as a business person because when you look at a problem so what happens in when we look at problems at edge we kind of have this empathy bias like we know that or this developer did not do this thing right and I know the problem was I know the problem I can't problem solve it like if I am so suppose you give me a deadline I know that this guy can't do it so I will actually not be able to do it but once you bring it outside perspective to me when this down tie have happened what did you do you actually ask me so many questions you can't call this a stupid question but do you ask me very basic questions every time we collaborated on those basic questions and what came out was a solution yeah which was a very valid solution so it was a shortcut remember this go pay out of going sync was just a shortcut here it came out describe me knowing nothing not engineering got it right if I would not express my one W to you we wouldn't never collaborate it is that and that makes me feel respected because even as a non engineer you had enough respect to ask me or to follow through my train of thought and we came up with a solution together which increases my level of confidence and increases my sense of belonging in gaja engineer yes that I'm not just an alien outsider China and you can tell you guys what to do you got it I belong because I helped solve that problem and this yeah they were engineering my failures consistently and took me a long time that was without intending to I realized after the fact that I was being condescending to non-technical people that I was discussing issues with and what I was doing in the process by being condescending was without exposing my world I was literally taking a position of superiority however unintentionally which meant that they don't feel respected and then the collaboration dies yeah that's the appreciation point is so interlinked with vulnerability I feel like they're kind of flip sides of the same coin in many ways right that's a appreciating people and has to do with the authenticity and the intimacy brought by the sense of shared kind of pain together then you cannot replace in any other way then there's the kind of this final component which is the purpose or the mission right then there's that as well that is as important as these these other elements as well what is it about culture that that resonates so strongly with having a strong purpose or mission together how does mission affect a culture in a team doesn't even affect I mean I I was skeptical of this but you know some mutual friends of ours who were founders you know we've seen this before many years ago once Tony this I was like hey dude there's this dev I know who's just moved this was in the Bay Area was visiting we just moved to the Bay Area he's really good you should hire him and he was like he knows me he knows what we're doing if he believes in our product he will call me hmm but if he doesn't believe in our product I'm not going to hire him because then there is no point hmm and over time I came to realize that if culture is your uncodified decision-making process your mission is what provides this unwavering backbone to those uncodified decision-making processes the why it's the why the why and I guess you know for all the times that we stumbled through the initial phases of Crais trying to create a shared culture what really pulled us all together despite the fact that we didn't focus on in the beginning was that mission no purpose people stayed for that people bled for that last week somebody I was in doing somebody and they know they were I was not entering with somebody I was interviewing viewing somebody not with somebody that would be out so so one of the things they said is like very nice thing this Saturday is like okay AJ I heard all this stuff about your mission and all the stuff tell me what were you doing for environment and people and that actually got me started and we spoke about like 45 minutes like what what our mission is what we are doing for people what we are doing for environment how are we thinking about they're like impacting Indonesians or impacting other countries where we are going and how positively we change the life of people and I showed him everything whatever we could do I could have not done that if I did not know the mission and they could have not got got influenced by us if they did not know that we are we really truly believe in what we are doing one thing is that and second we are acting on it so and that kind of once you have that thing mission our mission what our mission is our mission is to go and do right thing for drivers impact their lives that means means you will never do something wrong for drivers that becomes your culture I mean we actually have this as a tagline on our Emperor employer branding in some of our campaigns nice people heart problems nice people heart problems high problems like for example we are talking about go food right and we are pregnant like looking at go food and how can we more environmentally with intugo food like go cafes or a good example go for cafe is very good carefully it's a gook affair which transformed the book effect from being not very environmental to very few months and we have every biodegradable product over there we don't use plastic if you go to our offices we don't use plastic right and that actually has a very big Asian chain and we never set this as a instruction I I remember in India office at no point have I ever mandated this but one fine day all the disposable cups went away and there were these reusable steel monks that showed up beautifully designed and I had nothing to do with yet it wasn't a command it wasn't a policy it it becomes emergent behavior and I think that's the most salient point about culture it is the most scalable and viral way of generating either positive or negative behaviors and it creates that powerful sense of shared identity which is just another word of saying I belong here and that's why I said culture is the expression of a good yep it's why I always anchor on on things where I say I'm most proud of stuff that I had nothing to do it yeah that's that's the stuff I'm most proud of that's when you know culture is kicking in exactly and alive and well guys we're running at where we've run out of time but we could go on hours on the subject thank you so much for the insights please come again on the go figure podcast thanks guys thank you bye bye hey guys hope you enjoy the podcast if you liked it please hit like subscribe and follow us on social media thanks so much for tuning in

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