5. Cultivating awesome

Metro’s HOW is it’s personality – the editorial vision driven by @DeborahArthurs. This vision is just what Metro needs.

Our personality is our public face, but HOW also has an internal face – our character, our culture. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Metro has seen massive success over the last two years. A major reason for this is the way our culture has changed – we’ve put  conversation and learning at the heart of what we do. Remember, conversation and learning are two of the values at the heart of our brand.

1. Conversation

It’s all about conversation. Do i really need to say more?

The book Creativity, Inc talks about how conversation is crucial to the success of Pixar. The book Social Physics has the science to back it up. The artists and the scientists agree – connecting people with diverse opinions is the key. It’s conversation.

2. Learning

Learning isn’t about textbooks or lectures, obviously. It’s about trying new things and getting meaningful feedback. It’s the growth mindset. It’s how companies innovate. Innovation is critical but that’s another story (one i’ve already written about in my 2011 mini-book).

Getting meaningful feedback is harder than it sounds. How do you know if the new thing you tried is a success or not?

For example, we recently did a lot of work adding polls to Metro. Polls are super-easy to vote on: “What word best describes Nicklas Bendtner? Unfortunate or Idiot?”

We figured that once users vote they’ll be in “interaction mode” and more likely to share the page on Facebook. Polls got millions of votes last month but we still haven’t figured out if they’re driving more shares.

There are ways of learning that most people aren’t aware of. Whole books have been written about it: randomised control trials, five second test, 6 hats, YouGov, guerrilla data gathering, 5 whys, validated learning, the list goes on. These are all ways to reduce uncertainty. It is an art.

Example: homepage redesign

We recently started redesigning our homepage. What’s the quickest way to validate the designs? We could put the old and new designs on fivesecondtest.com and get feedback in hours rather than weeks. It even lets you target specific demographics.

The technique was popularised by the book Lean Startup. It embodies the “fail fast and move on” mentality mentioned in Metro’s Investor Briefing. The book will change the way you think about growing a business.

The art of conversation

Learning makes conversations more interesting. Here’s a trivial example: Imagine that two people want to choose which headline to use for an article…

It’s easy for this to simply be a long argument, a battle of wills/ego/authority. One person will lose and neither person learns the right answer.

With the right tools though, the choice becomes objective. It can be A/B tested, both people learn the right answer and then have a more interesting conversation such as, “what other headline should we try?”.

It shifts the conversation from opinions (politics) to possibilities (creativity).


Creativity is a crucial to Metro. It used to be one of our corporate values written on the wall. Our tag line hints at creativity, “news but not as you know it”.

The trouble is, as Start With Why points out, that creativity is hard to action. “10% more creativity please Bob”.

It’s conversation and learning that drive creativity. They are actionable:

  • Have a conversation
  • Set aside time to try something new
  • Get meaningful feedback

Hmm, maybe that needs some work but you get the idea. It echoes the “agile” mentality mentioned in the recent Investor Briefing. It’s one of the reasons for our new hack days – nice one @elgrom !

Next post.

Categorized as Metro

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