What we can learn from the innovation culture at Netflix

A culture of innovation can determine the success or failure of a company. A company that stands out as a model of a thoughtful and constant attitude to change is Netflix. The streaming giant turned the film and television industry upside down a long time ago. But without a good team and a good strategy this would not have been possible.

Netflix’s success can be attributed to three factors:

  • Readiness for change
  • Data analytics and consumer science are the key to success
  • Freedom of organization, discipline and responsibility for all employees

It was Netflix’s culture of innovation that enabled the company to move from DVD by mail, to streaming, to a worldwide audience. To this day, a PowerPoint presentation by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and former talent leader Patty McCord remains a guiding light for startups around the world.


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Willingness to change

As already Nintendo show in their culture of innovation, sometimes you have to be willing to make yourself obsolete. Netflix is in no way inferior to the gaming company in this respect, and the streaming company’s culture of innovation also demands that you always go where the market needs you to go with your strategy. Even if that means reinventing your own business model over and over again.

You can see much of the current adaptable start-up culture in this mindset, but as you can see from Netflix’s history, the company has always lived up to this principle. From disrupting DVD rental companies by sending movies by mail, to digital streaming offerings, to producing your own movies and series. Gradually, the company has turned the entire media industry upside down and now, according to current figures, spends around 12 billion dollars on programming.


Data analytics and consumer science are the key to success

The key to Netflix success is the continuous analysis of user data. Big Data quickly became the guiding principle of the company’s culture of innovation and determined the direction in which the offerings and technologies for the streaming giant were developing.

By looking at what customers like to watch, how long they watch the shows and what they might like, Netflix has changed the way we consume content forever. The usage behavior of all viewers is clustered and recommendations are tailored to their viewing habits.

With approximately 130 million subscribers, the streaming service’s algorithm has enough clues to provide the most accurate indication of user preferences and the need for optimization of content or platform design.


Freedom of design, discipline and responsibility for all employees

Netflix would be nothing without its employees. But it has high expectations of them. The Netflix culture manifesto therefore includes requirements such as “being willing to critically review the status quo” or “making tough decisions without tormenting yourself. Netflix believes in a mixture of freedom and responsibility among its employees.

This commitment to Netflix and this critical and innovation-oriented thinking makes the company’s culture unique. Every employee is expected to shape the company, make it better and also take initiative. Whoever has a good idea, according to the company, should put together a team and implement it.

The commitment is also rewarded with generous severance packages and more responsibility. Every employee at the streaming company can therefore realize his or her own ideas if he or she wants to.


These factors make Netflix what it is today and have made the barely 20-year-old company shake up the film and television industry. Today, the streaming service can already look back on a number of Emmy nominations and this year even received one sixth of the Oscar nominations.

Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinkerhttps://www.medialist.info
Alexander Pinker is an innovation profiler, future strategist and media expert who helps companies understand the opportunities behind technologies such as artificial intelligence for the next five to ten years. He is the founder of the consulting firm "Alexander Pinker - Innovation Profiling", the innovation marketing agency "innovate! communication" and the news platform "Medialist Innovation". He is also the author of three books and a lecturer at the Technical University of Würzburg-Schweinfurt.

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