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July 12, 2006

News & Opinion: The Culture Code - You Need To Keep Reading

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:31 PM – Filed under: Personal Development & Human Behavior


I was familiar with Clotaire Rapaille from the The Persuaders documentary from a couple of years ago. He had this interesting idea that everything can be boiled down and explained with a single word - The Code. For example, the American Code for doctors is HERO. The Code for hospitals is PROCESSING PLANTS. He even talks about how people and companies can be "on Code" and "off Code".

Out now is his book called The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do. The introduction is brilliant. It lays out his history as a child psychologist and how his work with autistic children led him to what he does now. He explains the work he has done with couple of his early clients. The introduction was so good we went out and got permission to run it as a ChangeThis manifesto.

The main thing I want to tell of you about this book is Keep Reading. I found Chapter Two to be a hard section to read. He talks about love, seduction, and sex and what the codes are in various cultures. I think some of his conclusions are disturbing (i.e. the American Code for sex is VIOLENCE). I am surprised they laid out the book with this material in the front. When I read the book the first time, I stopped there.

If you stop in chapter two or three you'll miss a lot of great material. The chapters on work and money, quality and perfection, and shopping and luxury are fascinating. I would say based on the American idea of perfection that Web 2.0 is on Code.

Jack and I will always say that we are no good at picking winners, but I think this has potential. The writing is smooth, the book is built around interesting anecdotes, and the idea is intoxicating. There is a fascinating cultural aspect as well. When he explains how American Code for something, Rapaille always contrasts it with how other countries look at the same thing. The big question will be if people can get past the front of the book.

I highly recommend The Culture Code.

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About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.