A wise man once said the purpose of life is NOT to become MORE than you are but to become WHO YOU ARE meant to be. And if we were to put that in the corporate context briefly, it would mean we provide an environment where the best that is hidden in each individual is truly culled out. If that were to happen, the outcomes would be unbelievable.
That is what we want our culture to nurture. And we acknowledge its easier said than done and it’s a very long journey.
At InMobi, we see culture as the way we respond to any person or situation within our org. Ancient philosophers and modern thinkers promote various versions of ‘how we respond to obstacles is what defines us’. So our question was, ‘Do our responses to people and situations bring out the best in each of us? And when we say respond, we mean both, said and unsaid responses. Unsaid responses are as important because often culture is like the wind – it’s the presence that can’t always be directly seen, but it can be felt very strongly.
And here is one truth we have seen over the years – whether it’s a team of 3 or a nation of a billion, culture exists in every community. So the choice is between letting an unconscious culture crop up like weeds or consciously creating a culture we truly love.
We could have big goals, smart people, super pay, great products and more, but the undercurrents of culture will determine if we’ll make it big or not. If we are truly happy or not. If we are giving our best or not.
Over time, we had numerous conversations with InMobians and great minds outside InMobi on building culture. In one such conversation very recently, a dear friend and a great thinker, Tirthankar Dash (check out www.tdash.co) articulated this so beautifully. He said culture can be depicted in a pyramid. At the base is the Philosophy – what are the belief systems underlying the culture. On that base is built the Mythology. In the corporate context, this would mean Stories – what are the stories that make your philosophy real and personal. And at the top would be Rituals – what can you do that will bring it all alive. That was it – this was what we always believed in and now articulated even better.
You see, over the last couple of years, the CEO and the co-founders have been leading the way in building our culture brick by brick. We’ve tried a lot of things, some have succeed and some have failed. We went beyond the free food and the spa. We realized it was important to trust our people, so we took off a lot of policing. We needed to unleash people’s imagination to build next gen products, so there couldn’t be brickbats for failures. One of the many things we did keeping this in mind was to pay all non-sales staff top salary that included their entire performance bonus. Now they didn’t have to worry about performing well – we trusted them and wanted them to go after the really big stuff. Even the effort taken to design our office was a complete reflection of our thinking and culture.
So as we introspected, we realized our Philosophy was now strong. Our Mythology was great. We had already collected some fabulous stories on what makes InMobians. Our people were a smart, diverse set – with varied interests and backgrounds – some w/pedigree like the Ivy Leagues and IITs, some dropouts, some w/patents, some ex-founders of companies, some musicians, some scientists, some national champions – most of them brimming w/passion.
So after this 2 - year journey on culture, we were now ready to go deeper, to the next stage of evolution. We were so passionate about this baby of ours that we now needed to give it a name.
The true north of our culture was Imagination, Oneness and Action [Dream Big: Come Together: Do It]. So we chose a name that was a convergence of various languages and called our culture ‘YaWiO’. How we arrived at that name is best kept for another blog.
Now for the YaWiO culture to come even more alive, we needed stronger rituals. Our rituals took the shape of festivals. We’ve just designed our first festival YaWiO-x [where x=Expand]. This ties in well with ‘Imagination’, which is also connected to one of our underlying values of ‘Thinking Big’.
The big question was what could our festival do, to truly bring these alive. For that we needed to understand how big ideas are formed. On careful observation, you find that very often it happens when you really go deep into a problem – and then take a break to do something else. Givng your mind that rest is a critical step in the idea generation process. Think Archimedes – his Eureka moment was in a bathtub. The incubator was created when an obstetrician visited a zoo. Throughout history, we find stories like these.
At InMobi we had some of the best problem solvers – but they needed to take a break. And while taking a break, if they could work on work on solving some of humanity’s biggest challenges that are unrelated to their daily work – nothing like it. So that’s what YaWiO-x is setting out to do.
We have invited 3 institutions that we believe are impacting humanity in a really big way – X Prize, Magic Bus and Team Indus.
X Prize focuses on solving some of the grandest human challenges through global competitions. On their advisory board are great minds like Ratan Tata, Larry Page, Elon Musk, James Cameron, Ariana Huffington and more. They are coming to an organization for the first time to throw open a challenge on Solving Women’s Safety Globally using exponential technologies.
Magic Bus has impacted the lives of 300,000 children by taking them out of poverty into livelihood. They are throwing open the challenge on transmitting educational content through extremely low bandwidth.
Team Indus is an Indian aerospace startup that’s looking to land an unmanned rover on the moon. They are throwing open a math and physics challenge – setting up a communication system between the rover and the lander, amidst the harsh conditions on the moon.
As we write this, scores of InMobians have signed up and begun their pre-festival discussions. The reason this is exciting for all of us is because if our ideas are of great quality, they will see the light of day – the institutions will be using these ideas to solve some of the biggest challenges facing humans. And in the process, InMobians will have a huge sense of contribution. Perfect win-win for all.
Now, that’s a festival worth celebrating.
While this is primarily open for InMobians, we’d like to invite each of you. We want to open source our culture to all start ups so that they don’t go through the long learning curve we went through. In the process, let’s create new generation workplaces that the best people in the world would be super excited to be part of. There’s plenty of place for tons of organizations to create great culture and attract and nurture great talent.
So if any of you are from a start-up, you are welcome to attend our YaWiO launch in our Bangalore office between 3.30 pm to 6pm India time on Mon, 22nd Jun, 2015.
And if you are in any corner of the globe and are interested in participating in the challenges (Mon, Jun 22-Wed, Jun 25, 2015), we’d love to hear your ideas too. Who knows which idea creates the real breakthrough for these institutions. Pls follow us @InMobi #YaWiO. And sign up at www.inmobi.com/yawio to get all the updates.
Stay tuned for more.