Dec. 3, 2020

The second day of NBAA’s inaugural Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE) was headlined by a keynote conversation with Erin Meyer, who co-authored The New York Times best-selling book “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention,” with Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings.

In a conversation with NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, Meyer outlined steps to foster a business culture promoting cross-organizational flexibility and creativity to combat disruptive factors, regardless of whether those come from low-performing employees, competing businesses – or even a global pandemic.

For example, while Meyer noted the lack of rules can lead to “a complete descent into mayhem, [but]the best employees don’t need a lot of rules.” However, many companies are compelled to establish rules to accommodate the “’not-great performers.’

“[Hastings] thought of an organization made up almost entirely of high-performing workers to create a higher talent density in the same amount of people,” she said. Such a culture is maintained through promoting candor “to give one another a lot of open feedback and create co-accountability.”

Bolen noted the approach is “a little bit contradictory” to how companies have operated in the past.

“Most corporate cultures around us [operate] with this industrial-era hangover,” Meyer said. “But today, where more organizations are looking to be more flexible and more innovative, it’s no longer [about] error reduction and replicability.”

Such an approach may also seem at odds with the rigorous procedures that business aircraft operators depend upon to maintain a safety-focused mindset. Meyer acknowledged “rules and processes are our friends” when error prevention is the highest priority, but more creative thinking may still be utilized in other areas.

For example, Netflix does not define mandatory vacation time; instead, employees are encouraged to adopt “soft guidelines” based upon what they see their managers and peers doing. Similarly, managers utilize “the keeper test” to consider whether the possible loss of a given employee would be devastating to their team, or if it might create an opportunity for someone better-suited to that role.

While creating such a corporate environment doesn’t happen overnight, Meyer emphasized the approach empowers responsible, goal-driven team members to rise to a higher level. It may even lead to a complete reinvention of their company, just as Netflix has done twice by converting from a DVD-mailing service to an online distributor of previously released movies and TV shows, and then again to what is now a thriving media content generator rivaling Hollywood studios.

“The deal is, if you eat your spinach and you eat your squash, then you get to eat your cake,” she said. “And everyone loves the cake.”