Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams
Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.
Erin Meyer is the author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, and coauthor of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. She is also a professor at INSEAD, one of the world's leading international business schools. Her work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and Forbes.com. In 2019, Meyer was selected by the Thinkers50 as one of the fifty most influential business thinkers in the world. She received an MBA from INSEAD in 2004, and she currently lives in Paris, France. In 1994 and 1995 Meyer also served in the Peace Corps as a volunteer teacher in southern Africa. Visit erinmeyer.com for more information.
ERIN MEYER: When Reed started Netflix, he had this question, this experiment in his mind, which was: Would it be possible, if he created an organization that was made up entirely of top performers? Would it be possible to give them an incredible level of freedom without having to worry about the organization descending into chaos? Because, of course, in most companies, most of the rules and process are put in place in order to deal with employees who are underperforming, or who are maybe not the best employees of the batch, right? So that led him to this idea, this idea of talent density, of creating a high performing team that had very little rules and process tying it down. And the idea is specifically not just that we're any other team, but we're a high performing Olympic team. And I think that's actually an interesting image, because we can all think about top athletic performers, that they recognize that if they want a spot on that top Olympic team, that they're going to have to fight hard to get that spot. Meaning they're going to have to really be performing at their highest level. And when they get there, they know every year they kind of have to try out again. It's not like they're going to be in that spot for life. So, I think that that's an atmosphere that is very attractive to some of the younger generations today that aren't thinking about employment for life, but instead are thinking about opportunities that can allow each of us to shine to our full potential. And then, when that opportunity is done, we can move on to another opportunity. Of course, that also means that Netflix, I would say, is a rather high adrenaline place to work. Just like being on an Olympic team may be high adrenaline. And what I found is that people are both excited and delighted and a little bit exhausted. So, you have to be a person who really is looking for that level of freedom and opportunity, knowing that it may be a position that is also going to use every inch of your neurons while you're working there.
So of course, saying that you want to have a team of all high performers is easy enough, but figuring out how to do that is not so easy. Historically, companies like GE and Microsoft have dealt with this idea of trying to get all top performers by using these processes, which are sometimes called things like "Rank and Yank," where you rank your employees from top to bottom. And for example, with GE, for a period of time, managers were then asked to fire the bottom 10 percent. But since been shown to not be a great management tool, because it creates a lot of internal competition and even backstabbing. Plus, because Netflix is so anti-process, that wouldn't work there anyhow. But instead, what they do at Netflix, which I think is actually a very interesting exercise for any manager at any company, is something that they call the keeper test. And the keeper test is just a very simple exercise that you, as a manager, do alone, which is that maybe once or twice a year, you kind of sit down by yourself and you reflect. And you imagine, okay, Crystal comes into your office, someone on your team. And she says, 'Erin, I've come here to tell you I'm leaving your company. And I found a great job somewhere else. And I really enjoyed working with you, but I'm sorry, it's over.' And when this employee tells you that she or he is going to leave the company, what's your reaction? That's the keeper test, right? You have to ask yourself, how would I react? And with some employees, you might think, 'Oh my gosh, if Crystal told me she was leaving the company, I would be devastated. I would fight hard to keep her.' Right? Then you know she's a keeper. The other option of course might be less positive. Maybe you would feel kind of neutral about it. Maybe you would even feel kind of relieved. And you might even feel a little bit excited about who you were going to be able to get in order to fill that role. And of course, that's the test, right? If you wouldn't fight hard to keep that person, then that's not someone that should be on your team.
Performance is contagious. And what that means for a manager is that if you have one individual on your team who's a little bit of a performance problem, that's not an individual problem. An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team. And if you've got enough of those in your company, that impacts the entire organization. So I think it's really important that we think about that kind of idea of that one mediocre employee pulling performance down, or that if you have a team of all stunning colleagues, how that may just then cycle up. And that's what we've really seen at Netflix, like an organization where they've kind of weeded out the adequate or mediocre performers. And then we've seen just the success of that organization cycle up.
- There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
- Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
- "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.
The WashU electrolyzer<iframe src='https://mars.nasa.gov/layout/embed/model/?s=6' width='800' height='450' scrolling='no' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe><p>The WashU electrolyzer—it has no snappy acronym yet—will not be the first device capable of extracting oxygen from Martian water. That honor goes to the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or <a href="https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/instruments/moxie/" target="_blank">MOXIE</a>, which is en route to Mars onboard NASA's <a href="https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/" target="_blank">Perseverance</a> rover. The rover was launched on July 30, 2020. It will arrive on February 18, 2021, and will perform high-temperature <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolysis_of_water" target="_blank">electrolysis</a> to extract pure oxygen, but no hydrogen.</p><p>In addition to being able to capture hydrogen, the WashU system can even do a better job with oxygen than MOXIE can, extracting 25 times as much from the same amount of water.</p><p>The new system has no problem with Mars' magnesium perchlorate-laced water. On the contrary, the researchers say it ultimately makes their system work better since such high concentrations of salt keep water from freezing on such a cold a planet by lowering the liquid's freezing temperature to -60 °C. He adds it may "also improve the performance of the electrolyzer system by lowering the electrical resistance."</p><p>Cold itself is no issue for the WashU system. It's been tested in a sub-zero (-33 ⁰F, or -36 ⁰C) environment that simulates Mars'.</p><p>"Our novel brine electrolyzer incorporates a lead <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0926337318311299" target="_blank">ruthenate pyrochlore</a> <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anode" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">anode</a> developed by our team in conjunction with a platinum on carbon <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathode" target="_blank">cathode</a>," explains Ramani. He adds, "These carefully designed components coupled with the optimal use of traditional electrochemical engineering principles has yielded this high performance."</p>
Back home<p>"This technology is equally useful on Earth where it opens up the oceans as a viable oxygen and fuel source," Ramani notes. His colleagues forsee potential applications such as producing oxygen in deep-sea habitats with ample water available, such as underwater research facilities and submarines.</p><p>The study's joint first author Pralay Gayen says that "having demonstrated these electrolyzers under demanding Martian conditions, we intend to also deploy them under much milder conditions on Earth to utilize brackish or salt water feeds to produce hydrogen and oxygen, for example, through seawater electrolysis."</p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Pfizer's vaccine needs to be kept at -100°F until it's administered. Can caregivers deliver?
- Fair distribution of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is especially challenging because they need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures.
- Back in 2018, the WHO reported that over half of all vaccines are wasted worldwide due to lack of cold storage, and they were only talking about vaccines that need to be chilled or kept at standard freezer temperatures.
- Real-time logistics data, location tracking, and information about movements are crucial to track shipment progress, product temperature and other conditions.