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3 Business Books That Inspired How We Work at Marshmallow

December 7, 2021
3 mins

One of Marshmallow’s company values is to Move Fast and we’ve certainly proven that in the years since we launched. In the last twelve months alone our customer base has grown nearly 300% and our employee count from 60 to 160!

When growing at such a phenomenal rate, it’s important to make decisions quickly and get comfortable with the fact that they’re not going to be 100% perfect all the time. (In fact, sometimes they might be entirely wrong!) The good thing is, we can learn from each mistake we make, iterate as we go and get stronger as a company in the long run.

That’s one of the reasons I run a Business Bookclub at Marshmallow. As well as learning from our own mistakes, we must leverage the experience of others and learn from their mistakes — and successes too. Business Bookclub allows us to do just that.

Every other month, Marshmallowers from all business areas get together to discuss a new book about leadership, culture or innovation. Marshmallow believes self-development is key to innovation and growth, so the books (or audiobooks) can be expensed and the meetings take place during working hours — specifically in the morning so we can all bring our coffee and toast along too!

I’m going to talk about a couple of the books that have had a real impact on the way we work here at Marshmallow 👏

🚢 Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, David Marquet

David Marquet was the captain of the worst performing submarine in the US navy. But he literally — and figuratively — turned the ship around! He realised there was a deep-rooted systemic problem when he gave an order to a junior team member who automatically tried to follow the order unquestioningly, despite knowing it wasn’t possible. He dubs this a leader-follower model. Marquet tried to change this to a leader-leader model, meaning there was more control throughout the entire chain of command. This was only possible by ensuring that the person making decisions is given all the necessary context that the leader has, plus the training and tools required to inform those decisions.

This version of leadership really appealed to everyone who attended this session of Business Bookclub (including two of the founders) and has since become the leadership model across Marshmallow. Wherever possible, we aim to give the control and decision-making power to the person who has the most background knowledge, rather than the decision automatically sitting with the more senior person. The People team has created loads of materials for people across the company to help facilitate leader-leader.

Luckily, there are lots of opportunities to learn new skills at Marshmallow too. To find out more, read our blog on upskilling at Marshmallow.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle

This book explores what makes a diverse array of teams tick, from the creative team at Pixar to elite sports teams and even a gang of jewel thieves.

Coyle’s theory is that there are three elements that transform individuals into a high-functioning team who can accomplish incredible things.

1. A sense of belonging builds safety, meaning everyone feels comfortable working together.

2. Sharing vulnerability shows that no one needs to be perfect and creates trust.

3. Establish purpose through a common goal and signpost a clear path to get there.

Again, this book struck a chord with the book group, in particular with our People team. They believe the best way to set new joiners up for success is to give them a thorough understanding of our mission, culture and why we are here right from day one. Our newly launched onboarding day uses lots of the lessons learnt from Coyle. It aims to build belonging, connecting our new starters with their peers, helping them understand Marshmallow’s story so far and making our company purpose and culture really clear.

💡 The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time, Allen Gannett

Allen Gannett believes you don’t have to be a creative genius to come up with the next big thing. In fact, anyone can come up with creative ideas if they surround themselves with the right environment, study enough trends and embrace the constraints and limiting factors.

He explains that creativity is the sweet spot between novelty and familiarity and uses the creative process of the Flavour Gurus at Ben & Jerry’s to explain how to replicate it yourself. They start with a really long list of potential flavours, whittle it down over various stages and, once they’ve launched it, work out when to pull a flavour and relegate it to the Flavour Graveyard, just before it reaches the point of cliche (here’s looking at you, fro-yo!)

This really resonated with our growing Marketing team. They’ve been exploring how to tell our brand story to customers in creative ways. The challenge is to find unique ideas that haven’t been executed by other brands — a struggle when social media is full of new brands doing new things every day!

So, the Marketing team is adopting Gannett’s teachings to hit trends at just the right time. They’re trying to adopt a similar method to the Flavour Graveyard, trying lots of ideas and embracing mistakes so they can quickly learn which creative ideas work, and which ones should be sent to the marketing graveyard!

📚 More book recommendations

And if you’re looking for some more great reads, here are some of the other books we’ve enjoyed at our Business Bookclub!

  • Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Robert Iger
  • Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business, Chet Richards
  • The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, Gene Kim
  • High Output Management, Andrew Grove
  • Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean, Kim Scott
  • What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture, Ben Horowitz
  • ​​The No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

🤝 We’re hiring!

Keen to work somewhere that invests in your personal development, and celebrates testing out new ideas? You’re in luck, we’re hiring! Take a look at our current job openings here. And we’ll see you at Bookclub! 👋