'People who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.'
What is Power Pairs? Why does it matter to you?
Interpersonal friction slows teams of smart people working on complex business and technical problems. Imagine if people could lead with their true selves while having visibility into team dynamics to make faster, better decisions and execute in tandem.
Power Pairs is a guided experience based on quantitative social and cognitive science that allows teams to work together with more clarity and purpose and less stress.
A Power Pair is two dynamics. Your Anchor reveals who you are at your core. Your Spotlight shines on your most pressing challenge, opportunity or collaborative relationship.
Precise, customized recommendations guide individual behavioral shifts. Together, a team gains insight into the collective dynamics shaping it, with recommendations for tackling shared goals faster and better.
49 Power Pairs
What if instead of seeming nebulous and mysterious, culture could be visualized and understood? That's the purpose of the seven Culture Map dynamics.
Every person, organization, team, country and family has all seven dynamics, each in different proportions.
The 49 Power Pairs are built on paired combinations of the seven Culture Map dynamics.
Here's a quick exploration of what they each represent.
Aqua is purpose-driven, focused on the big picture, vision, and health of the whole ecosystem.
Yellow is curious, scientific, critical thinking, rational, fact-based, data-driven, and analytical.
Green values humanity, empathy, collaboration, camaraderie and consensus, and desires harmony above all.
Orange is flexible, customer driven, tactical, innovative, and prioritizes based on business value.
Blue brings order, structure, persistence, reliable rules, processes, and values organizational hierarchy.
Red is blunt, candid, fast, instinctive, decisive, responsive, and comfortable being uncomfortable.
Purple wants belonging, security, trust in leadership, a shared identity and a strong team.
Fortune 50 Client
A Fortune 50 Chief Information Officer (CIO) gathering their team for an offsite needed to work through difficult decisions about reorganizing in the midst of tech transformation with strict budget constraints and tight deadlines. Yet they grappled with interpersonal dynamics which created friction along the way, slowing them down and preventing them from fully seeing the complexity of their interdependent areas of responsibility.
After their Power Pairs alignment they made faster decisions, had better communication within the team, and easier discussions about complex interdependent issues.
'After Power Pairs we made better decisions, faster than we ever have. Everyone had a chance to speak their mind and nobody dominated the discussion.'
The CIO has a Green Anchor. Of the four direct reports, two of them also have Green Anchors. The other two have Red Anchors. Natural tension pervades the working relationship between Green and Red dynamics. The two are in conflict. Green is not comfortable with conflict. Red is.
Red is the color of fast action, instinct, responsiveness, blunt candor and high energy. Red often finishes people’s sentences for them. Green doesn’t move forward until everyone seems comfortable and agrees on a path. Red is ready to move right away. As you might imagine, these two dynamics are nearly complete opposites. Even a dash of Red can feel offensive to Green. Green’s willingness to wait for consensus feels agonizingly slow to Red.
During their Power Pairs interviews, team members with Red Anchors reported having been coached as a result of the dynamic. One was advised to be less blunt, candid and challenging in the group. The other felt personally stifled by this, and more, that it is unprofessional to miss deadlines out of a desire to be polite and avoid appearing critical.
This is a common yet sensitive dynamic. When teams visit Science House or we visit them on site, we have Red/Green tools to manage this dynamic in real time, and tactics we teach for keeping a team with this dynamic functional and productive.
Fortune 100 Client
A profitable company in business for more than a century needs to develop the ability to ask the right questions of their growing data science team and turn data into insights and action. The Chief Strategy Officer considered partnering with the Learning & Development team to teach this skillset but needed a more organic and flexible approach. The leadership team excels operationally, acting as stewards of the company primarily by managing risk. But the business is data-intensive. They found themselves with an ultra-modern problem: figuring out what to do with the analytical engine they invested in building, and asking the right questions of the growing data science team.
Asking the right questions is a Science House specialty. We worked with the teams starting with curiosity about existing products and services, and then expanded to navigate the sophistication of what they had already built. Their analytical engine opens the door to the creation of untapped value.
'We don’t have a magical way to understand the business well enough to know what they need from us. Data science isn’t a miracle. It’s a method.'
"We would ask questions and get back a 75 page report written in a way we couldn’t interpret. But nobody wanted to admit it was indecipherable.”
The Business team might not have been comfortable asking questions at first, but when they did, a secondary problem appeared. The Data Science team presented their findings in a confusing way.
We worked with the two teams on learning how to ask better questions and produce higher value results through development of basic storytelling skills.
Both teams have different skill sets, and it’s almost easy to make fun of a phrase like “p-values,” when the Data Science team responds with complex answers, or to mock the Business team for what can seem to be a myopic focus on customers. But in the end, both teams are working together for the same goal, so we recommended a Green spotlight to develop empathy and camaraderie as they learn to understand each other and communicate with greater simplicity.
A Fortune 500 client
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) needed to shift the culture of the enterprise to match the speed of change in a heavily regulated industry and among the rapidly growing customer base. The company experienced hyper-growth during the pandemic, hiring a lot of people fast, making acquisitions of smaller companies and increasingly automating functions at the same time. With an aggressive approach to solving customer problems, this company consistently hits or exceeds revenue goals.
We conducted discovery interviews with the leadership team to make organizational recommendations. Our ongoing evaluation of the entire enterprise uses the seven dynamics behind Power Pairs. Our system of measurement and analysis tracks positive behavioral changes in pursuit of market share gains that propelled the company into the Fortune 500. We rewrote the company mission statement and values to reflect the shift in the culture, and have worked with the company for more than four years to shape, assess and transform the culture.
"We all need to improve our ability to make sense of data."
The current state of the enterprise focused on driving business value within regulatory constraints with emphasis on fast action and responsiveness. The desired future state identified a different focus.
The CEO needs the entire enterprise to shift into becoming more analytical and data-driven, regardless of functional area. The development of a learning organization capable of applying critical thinking to every aspect of the company. We worked to establish a bridge between "soft skills," which are often the most difficult, and analytical rigor.
Our workshops with each business unit contextualized what it means to be a consistent learning organization. In the case of HR, for example, a people-first approach is enhanced by understanding data associated with attracting, retaining and training top talent. This knowledge improves morale, cuts down on expensive, time consuming churn and improves the department’s ability to connect with employees in a way that makes them feel more seen and heard. After the initial cultural assessment and recommendations, this company has used our measurement system for four years, including monthly reports to the Board of Directors.
A case study in corporate culture.
In 2015 The New York Times published an article entitled Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace that attempted to document the company’s "experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions."
Science House analyzed the article through the prism of the Culture Map framework. Normally, we would carry out such an analysis through direct interactions and data collection with a client, including extensive interviews and access to internal data. In this case, we analyzed Amazon by interpreting The New York Times article and other public information about the company.
Company culture is a patchwork of layers, pockets, silos and teams with their own microcultures. Below is a Culture Map of our interpretation of Amazon’s overall culture.
The 2015 Amazon Culture Map reveals a company obsessed with the customer, speed to market, and data.
The company operates with Red fire in its belly, blasting through barriers and moving at high speed. Employees are encouraged to be candid. Problematically, however, this often gets pushed to extremes, igniting into heated discussions that can result in name-calling.
The rivalries at Amazon extend beyond behind-the-back comments. Employees say that the Bezos ideal, a meritocracy in which people and ideas compete and the best win, where co-workers challenge one another “even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting,” as the leadership principles note, has turned into a world of frequent combat.
Ideas are critiqued so harshly in meetings that some workers fear speaking up.
...a senior developer, said he admired the customer focus but could not tolerate the hostile language used in many meetings, a comment echoed by many others.
Amazon exhibits every characteristic of an Orange organization; it is a dominant color on the organization’s map. They constantly seek out new opportunities, demonstrating an entrepreneurial mindset and an attendant comfort with risk. Amazon is focused stridently on the customer, combining this focus with data (Yellow) to deeply understand market needs and prioritize the most valuable projects. Amazon takes Orange further than most large companies in the way it ranks and prioritizes its employees.
Yellow is the color of logic, facts, and a scientific way of thinking. The dominance of Yellow at Amazon is astonishing in its power. Amazon tracks everything that they can, and uses the resulting insights to guide the business. “Data creates a lot of clarity around decision-making,” said Sean Boyle, who runs the finance division of Amazon Web Services. “Data is incredibly liberating.”
Amazon has a powerful lever: more data than any retail operation in history. Its perpetual flow of real-time, ultra detailed metrics allows the company to measure nearly everything its customers do: what they put in their shopping carts, but do not buy; when readers reach the “abandon point” in a Kindle book; and what they will stream based on previous purchases. It can also tell when engineers are not building pages that load quickly enough, or when a vendor manager does not have enough gardening gloves in stock.
What is perhaps more surprising, however, is the extent to which Amazon uses data to manage the workforce. Amazon uses a self-reinforcing set of management, data and psychological tools to spur its tens of thousands of white-collar employees to do more and more. “The company is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff,” said Amy Michaels, a former Kindle marketer.
It has just been quicker in responding to changes that the rest of the work world is now experiencing: data that allows individual performance to be measured continuously, come-and-go relationships between employers and employees, and global competition in which empires rise and fall overnight.
Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.
Still, we are human.
Amazon saw the report and invited us to deliver keynotes to push Amazon's leadership outside their comfort zone and 'Think Big' about company culture.
One of Amazon's leadership principles is Think Big:
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
'Culture can either be designed, or it happens by default.'
Created by Rita J. King, Power Pairs is a partnership between Science House in New York City and The Culture Institute in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
You can reach Rita at email@example.com | LinkedIn Top Voice | Twitter