The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle is a mixture of stories about successful organizations backed up with cutting-edge science and complemented with practical ideas for action. It identifies the key factors behind team cohesion and determines strategies that encourage collaboration and build trust.

Skills

Daniel Coyle spent four years visiting and researching successful groups ranging from a basketball team to a special-ops military unit to a gang of jewel thieves. He found out that their cultures are created by three skills: building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing a purpose.

The book is structured by these skills. Each part starts by exploring how the skill works, followed by a view on groups and leaders following these practices. Each part ends with concrete suggestions on applying these skills.

Stories

The Culture Code is filled with interesting stories that keeps the reader hooked. One of the most interesting stories is the World War I “Christmas Truce”.

The story tells how the soldiers needed belonging cues in order to survive and how proximity of the enemy in trench war facilitated mutual empathy. The soldiers established microtruces around meal times, bed time, using the latrine or picking up the dead. Each time this happened both sides experienced the relief of safe connection.

Furthermore, there are not only success stories, but also examples of terrible groups with really bad outcomes. Not only that but there is also advice how to reform these groups.

One of these examples is taming the football hooligans. It starts by describing how the Belgian police had prepared for the European Championships 2000 and none of it had helped against the hooligans. It goes on explaining how riots seemed to be inevitable as the 2004 tournament in Portugal approached.

New approaches were looked upon and a theory was that riot gear and armored vehicles were cues that activated hooligan behavior. By changing these social cues they managed to stop policing riots. The police was trained to keep all riot gear out of sight and to get good at small talk with the fans. It worked.

Recommendation

The Culture Code is very well written and is an easy read. It is full of little anecdotes that illustrate the theory and psychology. Some of the ideas of team building might feel counter intuitive first but are easy to understand and implement.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in how successful teams work and how to build them. You should share this with your entire leadership team. I believe I will use this as a reference to help cultivate a better culture in my own team.

The Culture Code has received praise from high profile web sites like the Business Insider, newspapers like the Washington Post as well as authors like Charles Duhigg and Seth Godin. It is easy to join the crowd and it’s quite hard to find anything negative to say about the book.

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