ArtifiShell Intelligence

My takeaways from “The Culture Code”


Just like my post for “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, this isn’t a review per se, and also not a summary; it’s an abridged version of my notes with my main takeaways.

Cover of The Culture Code

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups was the tenth book for our book club at work, and in terms of meeting attendance, it was one of the more successful choices. Some people even joined halfway through—previously unheard of. We ended up with about five to six people attending most meetings.

The moderate pace probably helped as well: we read two chapters per week, which turned out to be doable in two lunch breaks. Compared to Thinking, Fast and Slow, this was a lot less challenging. There was some overlap and a few references to topics covered in TFaS, but it didn’t feel redundant. For a while it felt like TCC is a lot less scientific (and it probably is), but it does come with many references; they’re just not linked to from the main text like in TFaS.

The book is split into three parts, each covering a skill considered to be essential for high-performing groups; each part ends with a chapter with specific recommendations for things to do. Together, these last chapters make for a neat summary of the book.

Build safety

Much of the book consists of telling stories about and giving examples of successful teams, which turned out to be good topics to talk about in the book club sessions. My favourite stories from the first part were these:

In discussing, we often try to see how we’d be able to map these things to software engineering, or how they apply to an all-remote world. For example, many of the belonging cues described for group interactions are kind of difficult to practice in video meetings—there’s just no good way to have side conversations, for example. Or body language doesn’t translate well: when I lean in, it just means that my head is bigger on somebody else’s screen.

My main takeaways were these:

Share vulnerability

Favourite examples from this part:

And my main takeaways:

One thing that I found a bit weird was around the recommendation to use “flash mentoring”, which is “like mentoring, but just for a few hours”. The strange part was the description of how mentoring apparently usually works: “pick someone you want to learn from and shadow them”. Isn’t there something missing in that formula, such as the consent of the potential mentor?

Establish purpose

Favourite examples:

And takeaways: