Apple, Google, and Microsoft Run on Culture


Photo of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: Fortune

Today’s Top Stories
 — The Best Companies Run on Culture: These tech giants are shaped by culture. And they can bend it from losing to winning again.
 — It’s Not Just Culture: A big pile of cash helps, too.
 — The World’s Biggest Industry Just Got Served: The FDA’s new food labels catch up to reality.
 — A Venture Capital Firm Goes B Corp: Foundry Group’s Seth Levine explains why it made the leap.
 — Celebrating the Buildings We Can’t Build Anymore: 40 percent of Manhattan couldn’t be built under today’s zoning laws.
 — Santiago’s Green Subway: It’s the first in the world that will run mostly on renewable energy.
 — Jobs and the Environment Don’t Have To Be At Odds: A major union recognizes them as inextricable.

The Best Companies Run on Culture
 Culture defines what a great company can be; it also limits what a great company can be. In “The Curse of Culture,” Stratechery’s Ben Thompson surveys the cultures of three great companies — Microsoft, Apple, and Google — and shows how their powerful cultures led to tremendous successes yet also made them unable to see what the next big thing, the thing that challenges their current success, might be. Thompson’s arguments are vivid and conclusive, but the most heartening aspect of his essay is that an out-of-sync culture need not be a death sentence. The new multiplatform Microsoft culture led by Satya Nadella is effectively replacing Steve Ballmer’s Windows-or-nothing approach that nearly made the company irrelevant. Yes, culture is destiny, but a company that changes its culture can also change its destiny.

It’s Not Just Culture
 Regardless of how their cultures are doing, those three tech giants have something else working for them: money. Apple, Microsoft, and Google hold 23% of all U.S. corporate cash (GeekWire). The astounding $391 billion these companies have can hold off culture trouble for a good long time. Of course, most of that money is squirreled away overseas, but that’s another story.

The World’s Biggest Industry Just Got Served
 In his weekly column, NewCo’s editor in chief shows how the FDA’s new food labels catch up to reality — and will drive the biggest shift the industry has seen in recent history.

A Venture Capital Firm Goes B Corp
 Foundry Group’s Seth Levine talks to NewCo’s executive editor about how the new certification changes the way it works — and what will stay the same.

Celebrating the Buildings We Can’t Build Anymore
 The smartest zoning laws make cities safer and more rational, but
 even well-meaning ones can change a city’s character in unexpected and unwanted ways. Take New York City. A New York Times interactive package shows how 40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan could not be built today, mostly because they’re too tall or too cramped (or both). That would means many structures recognized today for their architectural value or historical significance would never have existed under today’s guidelines. Zoning in New York can be especially weird: Developers have been known to “demolish all but the bottom quarter of their buildings, and then build up from there” to stay within zoning rules. A vibrant city can feel like an unruly, arbitrary mix of the old and new; it shouldn’t be a surprise that zoning works in similar ways.

Santiago’s Green Subway
 Another big city is going renewable in a big way. Santiago’s subway system will be powered mostly by solar and wind energy (Quartz), a first for a major city. By 2018, the second largest subway system in Latin America will run on 60 percent non-fossil-based fuels.

Jobs and the Environment Don’t Have To Be At Odds
 It’s often said that there’s a conflict between saving the environment and saving jobs, but the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest unions in the U.S., has decided to make climate change a priority in the upcoming presidential campaign (Guardian). Union president Mary Kay Henry says, “SEIU members live and work in some of the most polluted zip codes in America and are part of communities that are most impacted by climate change. We know first-hand that our fights for economic, racial and immigrant justice are inextricably linked to the fight for environmental justice.” A more sustainable planet means more sustainable jobs.

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