Model: hero stories show the real culture

December 9th, 2020

Hero Stories are the stories people tell to each other in a company / team.

Newcomers are often told these stories when they join the team.

These stories are usually filled with a sense of awe.

This sense of awe is directed towards certain 'key decisions'.


"You know that time when we needed to make that deadline and we stayed up three days straight to get it done?"

where the decision is

  • personal sacrifice vs work-life balance

  • team spirit vs health


A famous one from Amazon (which I'll horribly butcher by only partially remembering)

"Back in the day, one engineer wanted to add 'related items to your shopping basked', right before the checkout step. That person's (manager/leader/ VP of product or something) told that was a bad idea, and that he wasn't allowed to do that. Because "it will distract people from paying. He did it anyway, and tested it on a small set of users. And the data proved him right, a big increase in revenue!"

  • rebelling vs following orders


These stories tell you more about the actual culture, than the 'corporate values' on posters or websites.



I'm not sure which book I got this from.

(probably '0 to great' or 'good to great' one of those startup books I read years ago)