We live in a world where work culture has taken on a significant importance in establishing a successful business. But how do you build a positive culture at work? Author Daniel Coyle has the answer to this question in his book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.

According to Coyle, the three most important factors emphasized in The Culture Code for building positive culture in any group are:

  • Building safety

  • Sharing vulnerability

  • Establishing purpose

He goes on to dissect and explain each factor and, through real-life case studies, demonstrate how varied groups have managed to crack this code.

The quantum of research conducted by Coyle is the true champion of the book. The fact that he’s managed to condense four years of conversations and interviews with various successful groups into 250-odd pages is truly commendable. At no point do the incidents and cases mentioned in the book seem tough to relate to, even though they come from varied workplace contexts–from the US Navy SEALs to the Pixar animation studio; from the basketball court of the San Antonio Spurs team to the classrooms of a school in California.

The language is simple and the concepts easy to understand. In fact, it reads rather like a transcript of a podcast, where the narrative is interspersed with excerpts from the interviews Coyle conducts.

The case studies used for the sections on building safety and establishing purpose are diverse and engaging. These stories are a great way of showing how vulnerability can be shared. However, since most are drawn heavily from the military, this tends to be alienating for readers who may not have any knowledge or interest in the armed forces. Then, each section ends with pointers on how to develop the three factors in a group, and this shift from the case studies seems abrupt. Many of these points seem too simplistic, and the on-ground challenges of new organizations are by and large ignored.

The objectionable thing was that the main characters in all the case studies are male expect in one case. As a woman, this was disheartening for me–it is as if the author somehow is indicating that only men have succeeded in building and subsequently leading successful groups.

The book is eventually saved by the epilogue. It’s a lovely little story of a boy in a writing class group, who, thanks to the positivity and sharing culture of the group, is able to overcome his shyness and become a successful storyteller. Such use of the human element throughout makes The Culture Code book an enjoyable read despite the few quibbles.

The Culture Code:The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle is a must read.


Suha Gangopadhyay is a graduate from Oxford and worked at Ashoka University. A curriculum editor at Harappa Education, she has traveled to every continent on this planet—well, almost.


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