David Heinemeier Hansson

August 23, 2022

Cultural intuition

We can't write down everything that factors into the conduct of the business. There simply isn't the time or the foresight available to carefully catalogue all possible scenarios, trade-offs, and decision trees one might encounter in the course of running a modern, creative business. And even if there were, such a tome would become a straight jacket sooner than it would serve our drive and progress. So we have to rely on something else: inference.

The root of good inference is cultural intuition. The ability to extrapolate from the explicit and implicit gestalt of the business, and use that to decide how we might tackle the novel and unknown in its spirit. 

There are many ways to develop this capacity, but the primary one is through osmosis. You watch how decisions are made, how pace is set, how bars are cleared, and you internalize all these factors and more in your gut.

It doesn't happen overnight, and most everyone new to a business start on an empty stomach. But it's a crucial requirement for anyone who seeks to be a capable and productive member of an organization.

When it's working, when the cultural intuition is dialed in, we move forward with ease. The energy required to get from idea to action to results is less. You're swimming with the stream, in your own way, with your own flair, but in the same direction as the rest of the school.

Learn to flow.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.