Book Review: No Rules Rules


Cover of "No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention" by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

“No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

This book is incredibly well-written. I loved the back-and-forth between Hastings’ viewpoint and Meyer’s. Each concept is told with excellent stories surrounding them. Having Meyer’s voice as someone telling the story as seen from the outside is a powerful counterpoint to Hastings’ first person knowledge.

For anyone who is leading a company, or in a position to influence how a company is led, this book is invaluable. Hastings and Meyer walk you through the building blocks to Netflix’s winning culture, block by block, explaining how each relies on the previous one for the next to be possible.

Note, however, that this isn’t a generic leadership book. If you’re not leading a company or can’t influence how one is led, it’s likely to be interesting, but not that useful. I can’t see many of the principles and ideas in this book working at a departmental level.

One of my favorite things about the book is the radical candor with which the stories are told, including Hastings’ mistakes and inadvertent lessons learned from life.

For example, he found out about the importance of having a high talent density after he was forced to lay off a third of his employees at his first company. They chose the lowest performing third, and were shocked when morale actually improved!

Takeaways from chapter 2 around candor and feedback

Hastings also talked about how he learned about saying what you think with positive intent from his marriage counseling.

I’d heard about Netflix’s focus on feedback. What I didn’t realize was that there is specific training on how to give and receive feedback that all employees get. There’s also a really interesting chapter at the end on how giving/getting feedback differs by country, based on the norms there. I think that the variations discussed there also apply to individuals within a country.

Favorite quotes:

Page 11: “Jerks, slackers, sweet people with nonstellar performance or pessimists left on the team will bring down the performance of everyone.”

Page 15: “Only say about someone what you will say to their face”

Page 34:“Clarify and reinforce the difference between being selflessly candid and a brilliant jerk “

Page 39: “What matters is what you achieve, not how many hours you clock, especially for the employees of creative companies like Netflix”

Page 42: “Leaders must model big vacation-taking”

"Before you spend any money image that you will be asked to stand up in front of me and your own boss and explain why you chose. to purchase. that specific flight, hotel , or telephone. If you can explain comfortably why that purchase is in the company's best interest, then no need to ask, go ahead and buy it. But if you'd feel a little uncomfortable explaining your choice, skip the purchase, check in with your boss, or buy something cheaper."

Page 58: “Spend company money as if it were your own” didn’t work well but “act in Netflix’s best intent” did (see image for spending policy guidelines)

Page 110: “For our employees, transparency has become the biggest symbol of how much we trust them to act responsibly… generates feelings of ownership, commitment, and responsibility.”

Page 119: ” But if you explain plainly and honesty why you’ve fired someone, gossip ceases and trust in increases”

Page 123: “Whisper wins and shout mistakes”

Page 144: Regarding farming for dissent “It’s not a vote or a democracy… but it provides all sorts of insight.” (see image below)

Example of how Hastings' farms for dissent via comments and ratings
Examples of ways to ‘farm for dissent’ – a write-up with comments, or ratings/comments as feedback to a memo or presentation.

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