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No Rules Rules
Cover of No Rules Rules
No Rules Rules
Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention
Borrow Borrow
Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings reveals for the first time the unorthodox culture behind one of the world's most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies
There has never before been a company like Netflix. It has led nothing short of a revolution in the entertainment industries, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue while capturing the imaginations of hundreds of millions of people in over 190 countries. But to reach these great heights, Netflix, which launched in 1998 as an online DVD rental service, has had to reinvent itself over and over again. This type of unprecedented flexibility would have been impossible without the counterintuitive and radical management principles that cofounder Reed Hastings established from the very beginning. Hastings rejected the conventional wisdom under which other companies operate and defied tradition to instead build a culture focused on freedom and responsibility, one that has allowed Netflix to adapt and innovate as the needs of its members and the world have simultaneously transformed.
Hastings set new standards, valuing people over process, emphasizing innovation over efficiency, and giving employees context, not controls. At Netflix, there are no vacation or expense policies. At Netflix, adequate performance gets a generous severance, and hard work is irrel­evant. At Netflix, you don’t try to please your boss, you give candid feedback instead. At Netflix, employees don’t need approval, and the company pays top of market. When Hastings and his team first devised these unorthodox principles, the implications were unknown and untested. But in just a short period, their methods led to unparalleled speed and boldness, as Netflix quickly became one of the most loved brands in the world.
Here for the first time, Hastings and Erin Meyer, bestselling author of The Culture Map and one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, dive deep into the controversial ideologies at the heart of the Netflix psyche, which have generated results that are the envy of the business world. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with current and past Netflix employees from around the globe and never-before-told stories of trial and error from Hastings’s own career, No Rules Rules is the fascinating and untold account of the philosophy behind one of the world’s most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies.
*Includes a PDF containing examples of Netflix Culture Maps from the book.
Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings reveals for the first time the unorthodox culture behind one of the world's most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies
There has never before been a company like Netflix. It has led nothing short of a revolution in the entertainment industries, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue while capturing the imaginations of hundreds of millions of people in over 190 countries. But to reach these great heights, Netflix, which launched in 1998 as an online DVD rental service, has had to reinvent itself over and over again. This type of unprecedented flexibility would have been impossible without the counterintuitive and radical management principles that cofounder Reed Hastings established from the very beginning. Hastings rejected the conventional wisdom under which other companies operate and defied tradition to instead build a culture focused on freedom and responsibility, one that has allowed Netflix to adapt and innovate as the needs of its members and the world have simultaneously transformed.
Hastings set new standards, valuing people over process, emphasizing innovation over efficiency, and giving employees context, not controls. At Netflix, there are no vacation or expense policies. At Netflix, adequate performance gets a generous severance, and hard work is irrel­evant. At Netflix, you don’t try to please your boss, you give candid feedback instead. At Netflix, employees don’t need approval, and the company pays top of market. When Hastings and his team first devised these unorthodox principles, the implications were unknown and untested. But in just a short period, their methods led to unparalleled speed and boldness, as Netflix quickly became one of the most loved brands in the world.
Here for the first time, Hastings and Erin Meyer, bestselling author of The Culture Map and one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, dive deep into the controversial ideologies at the heart of the Netflix psyche, which have generated results that are the envy of the business world. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with current and past Netflix employees from around the globe and never-before-told stories of trial and error from Hastings’s own career, No Rules Rules is the fascinating and untold account of the philosophy behind one of the world’s most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies.
*Includes a PDF containing examples of Netflix Culture Maps from the book.
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  • From the cover

    1

     

    A Great Workplace Is Stunning Colleagues

     

    In the 1990s, I liked to rent VHS videos from the Blockbuster down the street from our house. I'd take two or three at a time and return them quickly to avoid late fees. Then one day I moved a pile of papers on the dining room table and saw a cassette that I'd watched weeks ago and forgotten to return. When I took the movie back to the store, the woman told me the fee: $40! I felt so stupid.

     

    Later, that got me thinking. Blockbuster made most of its margin from late fees. If your business model depends on inducing feelings of stupidity in your customer base, you can hardly expect to build much loyalty. Was there another model to provide the pleasure of watching movies in your own living room without inflicting the pain of paying a lot when you forgot to return them?

     

    In early 1997, when Pure Software was acquired, Marc Randolph and I started thinking about opening a movies-by-mail business. Amazon was having good luck with books. Why not films? Customers would rent VHS cassettes from our website and be able to return them via the mail. Then we learned it would cost $4 to mail the VHS cassette each way. There wasn't going to be a big market. It was too expensive.

     

    But a friend told me about a new invention called DVDs, which would be coming that fall. "They're like CDs but hold a movie," he explained. I raced to the post office and mailed myself several CDs (I couldn't find an actual DVD for my test). Each cost thirty-two cents to mail. Then I went back to my place in Santa Cruz and waited anxiously for them to arrive. Two days later they dropped through the mail slot, unharmed.

     

    In May 1998, we launched Netflix, the world's first online DVD rental store. We had thirty employees and 925 movie titles, which was almost the entire catalog of DVDs available at the time. Marc was the CEO until 1999, when I took over and he became one of our executives.

     

    By early 2001, we'd grown to 400,000 subscribers and 120 employees. I tried to avoid the leadership fumbles of my Pure Software days, and although we avoided implementing excessive rules and controls this time, I also couldn't characterize Netflix as a particularly great place to work. But we were growing, business was good, and work for our employees was OK.

     

    Lessons from a Crisis

     

    Then, in the spring of 2001, crisis struck. The first internet bubble burst, and scores of dot-coms failed and vanished. All venture capital funding stopped, and we were suddenly unable to raise the additional funds we needed to run the business, which was far from profitable. Morale in the office was low, and it was about to get lower. We had to lay off a third of our workforce.

     

    I sat down with Marc and Patty McCord-Patty had come with me from Pure Software and was head of Human Resources-and we studied the contribution of each employee. We didn't have any obviously poor performers. So we divided the staff into two piles: the eighty highest performers who we would keep and forty less amazing ones we would let go. Those who were exceptionally creative, did great work, and collaborated well with others went immediately into the "keepers" pile. The difficulty was that there were many borderline cases. Some were great colleagues and friends but did adequate rather than great work. Others worked like crazy but showed uneven judgment and needed a lot of hand-holding. A few were exceptionally gifted and high performing but also complainers or pessimists. Most of them would have to go. It wasn't going to be easy.

     

    In...

About the Author-
  • Reed Hastings is an entrepreneur who has revolutionized entertainment since cofounding Netflix in 1997, serving as its chairman and CEO since 1999. His first company, Pure Software, was launched in 1991 and was acquired just before Netflix launched. Hastings served on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004 and is an active educational philanthropist. He has sat on the board of several educational organizations including Dreambox Learning, the KIPP Foundation, and the Pahara Institute. He received a BA from Bowdoin College in 1983 and an MSCS in artificial intelligence from Stanford University in 1988. Between Bowdoin and Stanford, Reed served in the Peace Corps as a volunteer teacher in southern Africa.


    Erin Meyer is the author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business and a professor at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading international business schools. Her work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and Forbes.com. In 2019, Meyer was selected by the Thinkers50 as one of the fifty most influential business thinkers in the world. She received an MBA from INSEAD in 2004, and she currently lives in Paris, France. In 1994 and 1995 Meyer also served in the Peace Corps as a volunteer teacher in southern Africa. Visit erinmeyer.com for more information.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 23, 2020
    Bringing impressive credentials to this riveting business guide, Meyer (The Culture Map), a professor at the INSEAD business school, and Hastings, cofounder and CEO of Netflix, walk readers through the “unique ecosystem” of the streaming giant’s corporate culture. They chart Netflix’s evolution, drawing from Hastings’s personal recollections, excerpts from Meyer’s more than 200 interviews with current and past Netflix employees, and selections of company PowerPoint meeting slides, emails, and “culture maps.” In order to “connect the dots” and form a coherent picture of Netflix’s management style, the coauthors identify the firm’s 10 key tenets, beginning with its foundational emphasis on “talent density,” and continuing with its “culture of candor.” In its quest to be the best, the company has rewritten many long-standing corporate rules, such as by “removing controls,” with the elimination of limitations on vacation time, among other measures. Sharing this kind of dramatic evolution requires a dense and info-packed book, but the authors break up the text with helpful end-of-chapter synopses to sum up the takeaways and boxed excerpts from employee interviews. Aspiring tech moguls should flock to Hastings and Meyer’s energetic and fascinating account.

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