In the world of probabilities there is a concept of 1 minus, as in 1 minus the probability of something happening is the probability that something will not happen. For example, if there is a 34% chance your initiative will work, there is a 1 minus 34% – or 56% chance – something will not work. I get it, math is hard.
But this concept is useful beyond probabilities.
It helps reveal the contrary perspective in other problems too, like company culture. This dawned on me while reading What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz reminds us that when we’re building a culture we can choose concepts that sound positive, but we need to also think about how those traits may be weaponized.
For example, if you say your culture is ‘Flexible,’ that sounds really good – like you’re a lean adaptive group. But at some point, asking people to be flexible all the time is pretty much the same as saying “do what I say and don’t complain about it.”
Sounds pretty rigid to me.
This is further complicated because company cultures have all kinds of traits they’re trying to embody. As the concepts layer on top of each other, it gets trickier and trickier to tease out the underlying implications.
Of course, the goal isn’t perfection, its awareness. We can’t be perfect so if we’re aware that there are layers and nuance to how we live a culture, that’s a great start. Not to having a perfect company culture, but working toward one that doesn’t reward the 1 minus of it’s attributes.