Ushering in the Era of an Oral Culture

Five years ago we were soaring high. Our valuation was higher than we could ever have imagined during our humble beginnings. But it felt like something was missing. There was something holding us back from realizing our true potential. And then it dawned on me. We were in the same downward spiral as everyone else. Stuck in a never-ending cycle of Power Point reviews, email threads, and business cases. The common thread? The written word. Our communication was being filtered and flattened. We were drowning in type, LITERALLY. That’s when I knew we needed a radical change.

I had heard of some companies banishing Power Point, but that seemed like a half measure. A simple tool isn’t the root of the issue. The root is the complete and utter lack of oration in our day to day business. We were depriving ourselves of the true connection of a well-crafted speech. And so, five years ago today, we made a radical change. All of our business is conducted through speech. Right down to our hiring strategy. Our growth since this change has been astronomical, and I feel it is my personal destiny to share the fundamentals of our oral culture with you, so that you can also benefit from its numerous rewards.

It starts with hiring

This was the last step we implemented, but has been the most impactful. Gone are the days where candidates submit resumes and are then subjected to hours of questioning. Today, candidates submit a two minute video answering one question: What radical transparency means to them. Successful candidates are then invited to our offices to perform an hour-long soliloquy on what their contribution to the world will be. The entire office participates, because we don’t hire for teams here, we hire for the collective.

Doing business

Transitioning from a writing culture to an oral culture means eradicating archaic office traditions. The three pillars of an oral culture are: Symposium, Socratic Circles, and Study. Symposiums are how we share new ideas. The office crier invites audience members to assemble in the grand banquet room and we all bask in the glory of the perfect pitch. The energy is unparalleled. Like any business, there are some things that aren’t cut and dry and must be discussed and dissected. This is where our Socratic Circles come in. Again we assemble (do you see a pattern here?) and we are guided through a series of open-ended questions and invited to share our thoughts and use critical thinking as a collective to reach the ultimate, best conclusion. Many companies will say that listening is important in their business. In ours, it is critical.

And finally, we need to foster our oral culture by offering ample study time. We no longer have assigned desks. Instead, we gather in the library. We offer quiet rooms along the outer edges of the library for employees to practice their oratory skills.

Saying goodbye to type

History is still extremely important to us, and so we have memorialized type throughout our office space as a reminder of where we came from…and where we never want to return. Do I see the irony then, in writing this piece? Yes, but that’s what keeps me totally grounded. When you’re as customer obsessed as we are, you recognize when you need to humble yourself and return to your roots.

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