What We Are Reading
October 2021

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

The most significant human achievements are the result of a group working together towards a shared objective. It’s easy to assume a group’s success mostly depends on the collective intelligence, skill and experience level of its members, rather than subtle patterns of small behaviors. Here Coyle argues that it’s these small behaviors that make all the difference. In other words, culture is “not something you are, it’s something you do.” Coyle de-mystifies the inner workings of successful cultures like the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, Pixar, the San Antonio Spurs and Danny Myers’ Union Square Hospitality, and credits success to a culture’s ability to 1) Build Safety; 2) Share Vulnerability; and 3) Establish Purpose. Written pre-pandemic, Coyle stresses the importance of close physical proximity and face-to-face interaction in sustaining an effective culture – things to ponder as we cast about for ways to reconnect in the current environment.

HIGHLIGHT(S): Coyle brilliantly examines the heroic performance of the crew of United Flight 232, which crash-landed their DC-10 after suffering catastrophic engine failure, saving over 184 lives. The crew succeeded not because of individual skills, but because of a series of small, humble exchanges that unlocked the group’s combined, greater intelligence and ability to perform under the direst of circumstances. Critical was the crew’s adoption of a behavior that goes against our every instinct: sharing vulnerability.

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