Zappos Insights: The Link Between Culture and Storytelling



Excited to release this 34-minute interview I did for Zappos Insights (back in Dec 2009). This was content previously available exclusively to the Zappos Insights membership community. In this video, my good friend Robert Richman, Product Manager of Zappos Insights, and I seriously geek out on the link between storytelling and cultures of innovation.

Understanding the Zappos Brand

Did you know it’s harder to get accepted for a job at Zappos than it is to get into Harvard?

It’s true. Every new hire then starts with 4-weeks of training on the phone with customers (even if you’re the new VP of Sexy Shoes). After a week, they offer you $2,000 to quit. Yeah, that’s right, they will pay you to QUIT. If you decide to stay (and most of course do), you can just imagine how inspired and dedicated you become.

This is just one of the best practices Zappos developed on their way to becoming the most emergent, dynamic work culture you could dream up for a $1 billion company.

“Your brand is a lagging indicator of your culture.” – Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

If you’re interested in exploring this more, CEO Tony Hsieh’s bestselling book Delivering Happiness is one great place to start. It’s one of the few business books I’ve actually read cover to cover in a long time (I couldn’t put it down). Based on the all attention they received, Zappos is now on a mission to transform how the world thinks about “corporate culture”. There’s more about these efforts described below.

Zappos Insights is Out to Rebrand “Culture”

In case you’re wondering, Zappos Insights is a special division of Zappos which teaches other companies how to create WOW cultures of service and innovation. If you’re ever in Las Vegas, you have to sign-up for the free company tour. It will blow your mind! You can also go to Zappos Insights website and request they mail you a Culture Book that tells the Zappos story in the words of its employees. Pretty awesome stuff.

If you’re looking for some serious learning, attend one the two-day Bootcamps – it provides an intimate look into the Zappos way and teaches you how to create a unique blueprint for your own company’s growth and culture. One of my clients sent their entire leadership team to one of these events last spring and they returned a team transformed.

Another great resource: sign-up for their free culture interviewing tips and stay tuned as Zappos Insights rolls out a revamped online membership program in a few weeks. I’m excited to share I’ve been working with the Zappos Insights team as it evolves new curriculum, content, and offerings, and I occasionally teach at their Bootcamps. I’ll keep you posted on these developments.

What’s Your Favorite Take-Away From the Interview?

Would love to hear your own thoughts on the topic. How are you looking to shift culture? Have you started to work with the stories? Add your comments and questions below.


Join us for StoryU Online: Undeniable Story — an 8-week program where you learn our six-step storytelling framework. Begins Oct 6!

  • http://twitter.com/PeterSterlacci Peter Sterlacci

    Enjoyed this interview Michael and your very clear connection between culture and storytelling.  My own background in intercultural consulting has been a huge asset to me in my personal branding work in Japan where I now live.  I have always advocated the importance of story when I work with clients in Japan to use as a vehicle to networking, grabbing attention in a presentation, and just simply educating others about your own culture.  The power of story is amazing and to see it unfold in Japan where culturally people do not actively talk about themselves is fun.  

  • http://twitter.com/PeterSterlacci Peter Sterlacci

    Enjoyed this interview Michael and your very clear connection between culture and storytelling.  My own background in intercultural consulting has been a huge asset to me in my personal branding work in Japan where I now live.  I have always advocated the importance of story when I work with clients in Japan to use as a vehicle to networking, grabbing attention in a presentation, and just simply educating others about your own culture.  The power of story is amazing and to see it unfold in Japan where culturally people do not actively talk about themselves is fun.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10618874 Chase Sherman

    You can’t control people so shape the environment in which they have an experience… Simple idea that I believe is currently working for our website.

  • Mnusum

    Excellent!! Very thought provoking. I am sharing this with my entire management team, Facebook friends and everyone else I can think of.

  • Anonymous

    I like how you said “The difference
    between regular experience and extraordinary experience is meaning.” I think people really want depth and meaning in this world. It inspires me to further refine my art business to guide people to receive more depth and meaning in their lives.

    I also like hearing about Zappos and their tribe. I had no idea they had such a great culture for the employees. I often choose/don’t choose companies because they are good to their employees, so I will now research them further. Thank You Marvelous Michael! :-)

  • Leanne White

    Thanks so much for posting the interview :-)  Listening to the stories, learning about the culture and the way it soaks into the business – telling the stories and reshaping the way forward by gently influencing and impacting upon the culture … it’s the stuff of leadership and heroes.  I’ve been drawing upon the Zappos culture and ‘the way they do things around there’ with my students across this year – when I showcased Zappos with them, they got such a buzz from the Zappos YouTube videos, and were so amazed by the Zappos ‘Culture Book’.  We’ve been working together to explore the way that we can reframe stories to influence – and to look at the way leadership, culture and organisational performance are interconnected within the cultural community of a business.  I’d like to take it further!

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  • http://twitter.com/florin_muresan Florin Muresan Peter

    Awesome stuff Michael. I really like how you presented storytelling for brands and it’s given me some great insights into how to build the culture of my company. Thank you!

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Hi Florin – so glad. Would love to hear more on how your approach culture change in your company.

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