Embedded in a culture

Ray Liotta died on May 26, 2022. I wasn’t a particular fan of his, but he was definitely an actor who was a significant part of the culture I grew up in. There are many such people; actors of course, and also authors, musicians, journalists, teachers, scientists, politicians, military leaders, activists, and others less classifiable.

It’s one thing to think: That huge band that I love, which I’ve seen in concert… they’ve retired and hung up the act. Just knowing the people are still around however, means that something of, whatever it was that I loved, continues on in whatever it is, (public or not,) that they’re doing. Nostalgia rises up as people retire and things become, “remember when?”

But slowly, year by year, those people die and that makes it clear: Everything has its time, and that time ends. There but for the grace of God go I, is a beautiful turn of phrase.



The Halo Effect tells us that we will find a lot of false positives. The attributes we think are causal of success are the same ones we often deem causal of failure when company performance deteriorates. This is the strategy paradox.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2016/01/ken-iverson-nucor/

It’s an interesting post about culture. I’m interested in Iverson’s memoir— But to be honest, I don’t have time enough as it is to read the shelves of books already in my possession. (Let alone the hundred in the “wishlist” queue.) So ima let this one pass.

But culture does interest me. I’m apparently an inveterate systems builder. For better, but often for worse, I’m drawn to build processes and communities. Once— just once— I’d like to see something I create grow on its own. Not, “…and make me rich” nor “…and make me famous.” Just simply grow on its own. A great idea is not enough. Skill and knowledge are not enough. Timing is not enough. Vision and charisma are not enough. There’s something ineffable—because if I could describe it I’d go do it rather than write rambling blog posts casting about for something I think, despite my efforts to look around, is always just out of my field of view… There is something ineffable which I am missing.


Bad taste

Saying that taste is just personal preference is a good way to prevent disputes. The trouble is, it’s not true. You feel this when you start to design things.

~ Paul Graham from, http://www.paulgraham.com/taste.html

I’m not certain about “good” taste. I’m not convinced that there’s an objectively good measure of, well, good taste. I think too much of what some would say is “good,” is actually rooted in the current culture.

But I feel comfortable saying that there is such a thing as bad taste. There are clear reasons, for which one can present a clear case, why things are gauche. There’re clear situations and choices that are in bad taste. Mind you, I can readily imagine art which is intentionally in bad taste; that’s a good thing because art’s purpose is (sometimes) to push the envelope or to change society and culture. But in general, bad taste exists.


How do you create culture?

I’ve become increasingly interested in how culture is created within teams. One part is clearly modeling the behavior one wants to see. But I’ve been spending time thinking about how I talk to others about goals, challenges and setbacks. The more I look, the more I see I’m faced with so many interwoven elements: Communication—synchronous, asynchronous, mixed?; Feedback—positive, negative, immediate, delayed, public, private; Goal setting—team, individual, conservative, challenging, insane; Growth; Trust; Shared vision; Shared mission; Morals …

I find myself focusing almost entirely on communication. I try to spend as much time as possible explaining what I’m thinking and what my goals and visions are. At the sametime, the better I get at asking questions, the better I get at understanding what’s going on. There’s a balance. Too little conveying of direct instruction and concrete goals leaves some people struggling to grow. The opposite is also true; Too much and some people are stiffled.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.

So what’s a question you ask your teammates that has led to surprising insights?