Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Interview with Marc Paczian of Dropbox
The Boxcryptor team has a very special relationship to Dropbox: We use Dropbox in combination with Boxcryptor as a collaboration tool, many of our customers use Dropbox, and, for quite some time now, we are a premier technology partner. This means that Dropbox is a strong presence in our everyday worklife. For all of those reasons, we wanted to get a little glimpse behind the scenes at Dropbox and find out about their company culture. And of course, we want to share those insights with you.
Boxcryptor: How important is culture for Dropbox?
Marc Paczian, Solutions Architect at Dropbox: Our company culture is our heart and spine. Without it we would not be at the point, where we are today. It is the most important factor for a company’s change, development, and transformation. The term ‘culture’ refers to values and everyday contact. I love to describe our understanding of culture at Dropbox with the motto “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This expresses the need of strategy to be part of a culture, not vice versa. No strategy – as elaborate or intellectual as it may be – can replace company culture nor let it become less important. In other words: culture is of utmost importance for developing a company strategy.
Which role do employees play in that?
The most important one! Even some of the smartest strategies have failed in company realities, because they omitted to involve the staff. Dropbox clearly puts a focus on the human, the operator, the knowledge worker, the whole company as such and on all of their wishes and requirements for communication and collaboration.
Could you give us an example for innovation?
A great example for what such a culture can spawn is our annual Hack Week. I’m very aware that many companies nowadays have a Hack Week to give selected employees, like developers and designers, some hours once a year to work on new solutions. The goal is a presentation-ready idea. At Dropbox we do things differently: 2000 employees – from CEO to student workers – get a whole week time to work on creative joint projects off their usual fields of work, which would otherwise not fit into daily work routines. This way we abandon all doubts and inhibitions and just let our thoughts fly free.
But to which extent does this Hack Week actually produce additional benefits?
To a very high extent, because it is exactly from this Hack Week’s undirected creativity that we draw the best ideas. This produces lots of additional benefit to the business: significant parts of our product planning and development are rooted in the Hack Week. Although companies without cloud structures may spend some time on developing creative and extraordinary projects, it is the cloud which fosters an immediate exchange of ideas across countries and boundaries.
Which role do digital tools play for an effective teamwork and which are the most important ones?
This is an easy question. The cloud as collaborative basis is sufficient to organize every company’s collective know-how and make new ways of cooperation effective. In a company, the humans remain the most important part. They know the company best and are experts in their respective work areas. At the same time, they often have customer contact and therefore are able to assess the customers’ wishes and needs best. Anyone who continually invests energy into joining teams with different know-how, ways of thinking, perspectives, and experience in a new way may accelerate innovations within the company in return.
Okay, and which tool would you mention in this context?
If I were to name a concrete example of a digital tool which I wouldn’t want to miss in my daily office routine it would be Dropbox Paper. Teams nowadays face the challenge of finding structures, connecting them across time, spatial, and system boundaries. Since 2017, Dropbox is offering Dropbox Paper. A collaboration tool enabling teams to do exactly this. As creativity appears in every form imaginable, Paper enables to combine any kind of content – whether it’s video, code, text, pictures, audio, tables, or others – in one single document. If someone shares his Paper document, everyone (from any device and system) will be able to collaborate in real time.
Through our partnership with Dropbox we learned about the “Cupcake Philosophy”. Could you explain the meaning behind that term?
“Cupcake” we call a very special value in our company which is one expression of our company culture. Not unlike the sweet pastry of the same name, it is about exceeding the ordinary and adding something extra. To put the buttercream on the cupcake, which makes it special in the first place. And in addition to that, putting a raspberry, a cherry, or a chocolate frosting on top. The cupcake stands for increased attention within the working place. This means drawing attention to the little things, to gestures and small gifts, which make a colleague or a customer smile. At Dropbox we share a company-wide appreciation of this Cupcake Philosophy which we live by heart and without any hierarchy. Last but not least, Cupcake is about giving an authentic, human touch to everything we do.
Could you provide us with an example?
Of course, there are a few which come to my mind: the elevator sent down from the sixth floor to comfort the colleagues after you, offering an umbrella if it’s wet and cold outside and the visitor left his weather protection at home, or providing packed lunch if a colleague gets stuck in a meeting during lunch hour – including cutlery, a napkin, and a chocolate bar for dessert. To mind each other, to do a favor without being asked, to make each other happy.
Do you live the “Cupcake Philosophy” outside Dropbox as well?
Definitely. The cupcake philosophy includes the creative search for ways to make everyone smile, ourselves and our users all around the world. Because we believe in the translation of the magic we create among us at Dropbox into magic our users can experience as well. For this reason, I invite everyone to try the cupcake philosophy in his or her own company. Without much effort this shift of perspective, towards the wishes and needs of the others, will result in an exceptionally pleasant working atmosphere. It will make things which were formerly not taken for granted as a matter of course!
This is a truly fascinating company culture which hopefully inspires many to follow. Could you tell us in closing a bit about how security is rated at Dropbox?
As a global cloud collaboration platform, security is embedded in our very DNA and deeply rooted as essential part of our culture. “Be Worthy of Trust” is our number one company value, which is part of every employee’s daily life. We strongly focus on our users with regard to this matter: for them security has to be simple and intuitive. With Dropbox, nobody has to make a choice between either security or usability, it comes both equally important and at the same time. However, the users have to contribute to their security, too – we support them of course. For example by providing a tool for security checks, aid with the generation of secure passwords, or the option to enable two-factor authentication.
Thank you, Marc, for this detailed interview!
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