Inspired by books such as “The HP Way» and “Beyond Entrepreneurship,» Hastings chose to write about what he says is the real key to Netflix’s success: its culture. That topic will strike some as hopelessly dull. Who wants to read a tome about travel and expense policies? But the Netflix culture is already an object of fascination for Silicon Valley and Hollywood — ever since Hastings released a 127-page PowerPoint presentation on the topic in 2009. That slide deck has since been viewed more than 20 million times and hailed by Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg as perhaps the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.
Hastings, 59, is hoping his new book will have a similar impact. “No Rules Rules,» co-written with Erin Meyer, expands upon the PowerPoint presentation, outlining a 10-step plan to replicate the Netflix culture of “freedom and responsibility.» “The goal is to give back and influence young organizations about a set of principles we think are valuable,» Hastings says.
Though Hastings didn’t set out to write about himself, “No Rules Rules» serves many of the same functions as a memoir, reflecting what he has learned in his 30-year journey from young, ambitious entrepreneur to one of the world’s richest people. It also offers a glimpse inside the mind of a man who is affectionately called a robot by his employees. Hastings is brilliant and focused, an engineer who predicted the future of Hollywood 20 years ago and has seldom erred in executing his vision. But he is also unsentimental and less outgoing than your typical entertainment mogul.
“Erin dragged many very personal stories out of me,» he says, while describing his personal journey as only “marginally interesting» and unlikely to change anyone’s life. “A good book about culture may change some other organization in a positive way.’
Hastings is fond of talking about how few decisions he makes, suggesting that his job is little more than cutting ribbons and kissing babies.
When Hastings first released the culture slideshow, McCord was convinced it would damage the company. The presentation encouraged employees to openly criticize one another for the sake of transparency, and it recommended that managers get rid of workers whose performance was “merely adequate.» She was in charge of recruiting and human resources at the time and recalls thinking, “Oh God. You’ll scare away all our candidates.»Ultimately, however, it filtered out the candidates who were wrong for the company. “It made discussion and hiring very different,» McCord says. “It wasn’t just talking about whether or not you were qualified but whether or not you liked to be independent. Do you deliver when you say you will?»
The approach boiled down to a simple idea: Hire the very best people and get out of their way. Netflix employees are paid far more than they would earn at almost any other company, receiving unlimited vacation, generous parental leave and no official limit on expenses. The company’s decentralized decision-making lets people take big swings without approval from above. Hastings is fond of talking about how few decisions he makes, suggesting that his job is little more than cutting ribbons and kissing babies.