In 2013 Amazon won the prestigious USA National Retail Federation Retailer of the Year Award. Not bad for a business with no stores where everything is transacted online. But what’s Amazon’s culture like? Founder, Jeff Bezos, once described it like this – “our culture is friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.”

I like that. Why? Because it represents the reality of business. But what does ‘intense’ mean? To me, it’s being unafraid to ask the hard, unpopular questions, and being prepared to challenge the ‘popular’ view even if it leads to difficult conversations taking place. It also means having a bit of ‘niggle’ in your organisation. But mostly it’s about being laser-focused on achieving results and pushing a business forward.

Central to ‘intensity’ is a willingness to hunt down the truth about any matter. Be warned, it won’t always make you popular. You might even bruise the egos of some of your colleagues who have entrenched beliefs (and possibly empires to protect). That’s why being friendly is important – up to a point – and only as long as it doesn’t interfere with making the VERY best decisions.

In the end it is the constant seeking of the truth and imagining what the future might look like that must lie at the heart of the activities and culture of any business. It is easy to forget sometimes that we get paid to do more than to just manage the steady state and the status quo. What we really get paid to do is to innovate – to get that next break-through – and you can’t do without intensity in your culture (whether it’s friendly or not)…

So, how would you describe the culture of your organisation?