They are temporary cults.Sounds like the early days at Amazon.com. We used to jokingly refer to the company as "Amazon.cult".
Any time you isolate people, bind them together and work them like dogs, it's very powerful.
You can get an enormous amount done when you create a place of such total focus and collective delusion.
One of the Amazon engineers even did a parody T-shirt for the 1998 Amazon summer picnic. The original shirt looked like this front and back:
It says, "Amazon.com: Play long, hard, and smart. At Amazon.com, you can't do two out of three."
Here is the parody:
It says, "Amazon.cult: Work long, hard, and smart. And please pass the Kool-Aid."
A bunch of us were wearing the parody version during the 1998 picnic. Fortunately, Jeff Bezos thought they were hilarious.
[Robert Sutton quote found via Findory -> SJ Mercury News]
Update: Don't miss the new details from Joshua, the creative mind behind the 1998 parody T-shirts, in the comments to this post.