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CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Your bet would be wrong. In dozens of trials, kindergartners built structures that averaged twenty-six inches tall, while business school students built structures that averaged less than ten inches.*1

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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the wrong details. We focus on what we can see—individual skills. But individual skills are not what matters. What matters is the interaction.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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The business school students appear to be collaborating, but in fact they are engaged in a process psychologists call status management. They are figuring out where they fit into the larger picture: Who is in charge? Is it okay to criticize someone’s idea? What are the rules here? Their interactions appear smooth, but their underlying behavior is riddled with inefficiency, hesitation, and subtle competition. Instead of focusing on the task, they are navigating their uncertainty about one another.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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The actions of the kindergartners appear disorganized on the surface. But when you view them as a single entity, their behavior is efficient and effective. They are not competing for status. They stand shoulder to shoulder and work energetically together.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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The kindergartners succeed not because they are smarter but because they work together in a smarter way.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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(A strong culture increases net income 756 percent over eleven years, according to a Harvard study of more than two hundred companies.)

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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This book takes a different approach. I spent the last four years visiting and researching eight of the world’s most successful groups, including a special-ops military unit, an inner-city school, a professional basketball team, a movie studio, a comedy troupe, a gang of jewel thieves, and others.*2 I found that their cultures are created by a specific set of skills.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Skill 1—Build Safety—explores how signals of connection generate bonds of belonging and identity. Skill 2—Share Vulnerability—explains how habits of mutual risk drive trusting cooperation. Skill 3—Establish Purpose—tells how narratives create shared goals and values.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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In the following pages, we’ll spend time inside some of the planet’s top-performing cultures and see what makes them tick.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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The other people in the room do not know it, but his mission is to sabotage the group’s performance.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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experiment being run by Will Felps, who studies organizational behavior at the University of South Wales in Australia. Felps has brought in Nick to portray three negative archetypes: the Jerk (an aggressive, defiant deviant), the Slacker (a withholder of effort), and the Downer (a depressive Eeyore type).

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Felps calls it the bad apple experiment.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Nick is really good at being bad. In almost every group, his behavior reduces the quality of the group’s performance by 30 to 40 percent. The drop-off is consistent whether he plays the Jerk, the Slacker, or the Downer.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Nick behaves like a jerk, and Jonathan reacts instantly with warmth, deflecting the negativity and making a potentially unstable situation feel solid and safe.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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The story of the good apples is surprising in two ways. First, we tend to think group performance depends on measurable abilities like intelligence, skill, and experience, not on a subtle pattern of small behaviors. Yet in this case those small behaviors made all the difference.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Jonathan’s group succeeds not because its members are smarter but because they are safer.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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When you ask people inside highly successful groups to describe their relationship with one another, they all tend to choose the same word. This word is not friends or team or tribe or any other equally plausible term. The word they use is family.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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“I can’t explain it, but things just feel right. I’ve actually tried to quit a couple times, but I keep coming back to it. There’s no feeling like it. These guys are my brothers.” (Christopher Baldwin, U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six)

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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a distinct pattern of interaction.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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• Close physical proximity, often in circles • Profuse amounts of eye contact • Physical touch (handshakes, fist bumps, hugs) • Lots of short, energetic exchanges (no long speeches) • High levels of mixing; everyone talks to everyone • Few interruptions • Lots of questions • Intensive, active listening • Humor, laughter • Small, attentive courtesies (thank-yous, opening doors, etc.)

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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On the third floor of a shiny modernistic building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of scientists is obsessed with understanding the inner workings of group chemistry. The MIT Human Dynamics Lab

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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the proto-language that humans use to form safe connection. This language is made up of belonging cues.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Belonging cues are behaviors that create safe connection in groups. They include, among others, proximity, eye contact, energy, mimicry, turn taking, attention, body language, vocal pitch, consistency of emphasis, and whether everyone talks to everyone else in the group.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Like any language, belonging cues can’t be reduced to an isolated moment but rather consist of a steady pulse of interactions within a social relationship. Their function is to answer the ancient, ever-present questions glowing in our brains: Are we safe here? What’s our future with these people? Are there dangers lurking?

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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Belonging cues possess three basic qualities: 1. Energy: They invest in the exchange that is occurring 2. Individualization: They treat the person as unique and valued 3. Future orientation: They signal the relationship will continue

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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These cues add up to a message that can be described with a single phrase: You are safe here. They seek to notify our ever-vigilant brains that they can stop worrying about dangers and shift into connection mode, a condition called psychological safety.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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“As humans, we are very good at reading cues; we are incredibly attentive to interpersonal phenomena,” says Amy Edmondson, who studies psychological safety at Harvard. “We have a place in our brain that’s always worried about what people think of us, especially higher-ups.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

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