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We selected our holiday book at Kinetix (a tradition at the Big K) a few weeks back and in the tradition of doing something different - we picked JPOD by Douglas Coupland.

Here's the description on Wikipedia:

"JPod is an avant-garde novel of six young adults, whose last names all begin with the letter 'J' and Jpodwho are assigned to the same cubicle pod by someone in human resources through a computer glitch, working at Neotronic Arts, a fictional Burnaby-based video game company. Ethan Jarlewski is the novel's main character and narrator, who spends more time involved with his work than with his dysfunctional family

The JPod staff are required to insert a turtle character based on Jeff Probst into the skateboard game that they are developing as 'BoardX'. The marketing manager, Steven Lefkowitz, mandates the turtle's addition to the game because he is trying to please his son during a custody battle. JPod is then drastically challenged and changed when Steve goes missing and the new executive replacement declares that the game will be changed yet again. Upper management decides to change Jeff the turtle for an adventurous prince who rides a magic carpet. The game is then renamed "SpriteQuest". The JPodders, upset that they would not be able to finish their game, decide to sabotage SpriteQuest by inserting a deranged Ronald McDonald. They do this by creating a secret level where Ronald works malevolence, thus creating, in their opinion, a culturally-suitable game for the target market."

By now, you're saying "wait, what?"

We picked the book for a lot of reasons, namely the fact that Coupland is a great writer, but probably more for the workplace interactions that go on inside the team of six residing in what they affectionately call "JPOD".  Those interactions, as well as the reactions of the team to seemingly knee-jerk management decisions, are a big reminder to us that try asyou might to define your corporate culture, you're really only as good as what happens in the interactions within your smallest groups.

I'm looking out on our main workspace at Kinetix and guess what I see?  That's right - cubes (cool cubes, but still cubes) set up in what we call dogbones (groups of 6).  

How do we decide who sits together?  Where do the folks that manage people sit?  How often do we mix it up?

All those things drive whatever our culture is.  It's true that we can talk about who we are and who we want to be, but at the end of the day, our company cultures get defined by what happens in the JPODs that are all around us at work.

It underscores the need to hire well and have a plan related to how you put people together.  

So go ahead and draft that culture statement.  Then go anthropologist for a day and watch what happens in the JPODs in your company.  That's your true culture.

Comments

HD

SR finally green-lit J-Pod! (I finally ordered it per your recommendation.) My suggestion for 2015 is "The Circle" by Dave Eggers.

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