Ever since the 1860’s, when German physiologist Friedrich Goltz went searching for the location of the soul, the story about putting a frog in boiling water versus slowly heating it up has been a mainstay of explaining how we don’t take much note of gradual change. With apologies to my animal-loving friends, people do run these experiments, and as it turns out, slowly heated frogs do endeavor to get out of Dodge.
As long as we don’t go boiling any amphibians, it’s still a useful metaphor. We don’t fully grasp the enormity of changes around us when we’re smack dab in the middle of that change. If we did, it’s possible that each one of us would wake up each morning - thinking about computers, the Internet, and social media - smacking our foreheads, dumbfounded.
I’m not going to start listing out all those dizzying obligatory statistics that preface almost every book on social media. There are plenty of Technicolor infographics and YouTube videos that have covered that material far better and with greater scope than I could hope. Because of where this article is being published, I’m going to assume you know all that.
If, like me, you are in a perpetual state of head-smacking – that is, you are fully aware of the fact that we’re not in Kansas anymore – the world has changed. Big time. And there stand a handful of people who are central to that change. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos – of course the list goes on. It might be argued that on the social media side, Facebook, and thus Zuckerberg, have played a particularly central role.
Ekaterina Walter’s new book, Think Like Zuck, is a clarion call to all of us frogs in the soup pot. Not only is Zuckerberg at the nexus of the greatest changes in human communications for about 500 years, but he is there with intention – he is out to change the world.
I saw the movie, the Social Network. Zuck was a smart-assed Harvard kid who stole some good ideas, mashed them up with his own, and got lucky. Right? That conclusion doesn’t hold up, though. Facebook’s CEO had too many opportunities to grab the money and run. His entire history of decision-making, while not without missteps, has been about a dogged pursuit of a vision.
Think Like Zuck is not just about the Mark Zuckerberg story. As a director of social media at Intel, Ekaterina Walter possesses deep business and industry knowledge. In studying the success of Facebook, Walters identified five key principles:
Each one of these principals is discussed in some depth, often with examples from other businesses as well, such as Toms, CollegeHumor.com, Zappo’s, Threadless, XPLANE, Apple, and Jesss3.
Some of my favorite parts of the book aren’t about Zuckerberg at all, but the culture and strategy bits from XPLANE. The philosophies holding that mission and purpose are the driving forces behind any enterprise entered into business philosophy in the late 19th century. They were then promulgated by organizations such as the Masons and later by the Rotary Club. Even later, after World War II, organization change thinkers advocated for the use of vision, mission, and values. With Facebook and the other companies discussed in Think Like Zuck, Walter shows that these are powerful forces that could be critical to business success.
The famous business writer and thinker Jim Collins was invoked many times both in the book (and in my imagination) – Walters mentions the “getting the right people on the bus” concept many times. I also thought about Collin’s most recent book Great By Choice where he talks about the element of luck. No doubt, Zuckerberg had a great amount of luck in the timing of the creation of Facebook. But others had good luck, too – Zuckerberg had the foresight to use it.
Collins had a concept of Level Five Leader, someone who showed demonstrated a “paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.” Zuckerberg, with his famous “CEO, Bitch” business card could hardly have been said to show humility. But Walter’s subject has, like the hero of The Truman Show, been in the public eye throughout his twenties, and seems to be becoming something closer to a Level Five leader with each passing year.
In contrast to the Level Five Leader, Walter introduces her model of what she calls the “Hummingbird Effect of Leadership.”
The amazing qualities of the hummingbird can be seen in the beauty and complexity of its flight. Just like this flyer, effective leaders soar in their purpose of serving others and, in the process, achieve unprecedented heights of success.
Walter has helped me to appreciate the genius of Zuckerberg. Her own appreciation isn’t totally without any criticism. At one point, she offers some advice to her subject,
…to continue to be an effective partner, Facebook needs to strike a balance between its rapidly paced “hacker way” of innovation and the needs and desires of those who not only use its product (users) but also those who sustain Facebook’s revenue and growth (marketers and partners).
As marketers, it can help us to understand Zuckerberg’s history and philosophy. When we place emphasis on Facebook as part of our strategies, we’re betting that the rug isn’t going to get pulled out from beneath our feet. Walter has written a book that provides us with the reassurance that the game being played out here is much grander than someone just playing start-up company. She has also provided a thoughtful discussion of larger business thinking – the sort of thinking that we entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs!) need.
I look forward to seeing both how Zuckerberg’s great visions play out as he enter his 30’s and reading more business wisdom from Ekaterina Walter.