I’ve been re-reading Reed Hastings’s book lately. It’s an interesting exercise, given how much Netflix, and the rest of Hollywood, has changed since it was published to much fanfare on Sept. 8, 2020. Exactly two short years ago, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, co-written with business professor Erin Meyer, was delivered from Mount Olympus (by way of Los Gatos) as the sacred writ of a conquering hero. Hastings, the tech outsider, had taken on 100 years of entrenched studios and won. The entire entertainment industry had dropped its business model and was chasing his. And this concise, 274-page business memoir detailed exactly how he did it.
It wasn’t simply that digital distribution had filled in the moat that kept Hollywood protected from interlopers for a century. And that linear TV was so lucrative that the traditional players refused for years to even compete in streaming. No, it was Netflix’s unique culture that enabled its rocket-ship rise. The Netflix way of doing things—from its market-busting salaries to its transparency with employees and the infamous “keeper test”—was simply smarter, more nimble, different and better than other entertainment companies. “Our culture… has allowed us to continually grow and change as the world, and our members’ needs, have likewise morphed around us,” Hastings boasted. This was Ten Commandments stuff.
Now? It all plays differently. The window Hastings provides on the Netflix philosophy and its peculiar practices is still fascinating, especially his insights into the benefits of giving employees more autonomy and personal responsibility. The guy’s a visionary. But even so, I find myself constantly saying, “OK… but…”