Making Mark Zuckerberg’s Business Philosophy Work

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...Image via CrunchBase

The central way Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg works can be summed up in his often repeated mandate to his staff: “Move fast and break things.”

What Zuckerberg is talking about has two dimensions:

1. That speed needs to be a key component of how his people work. If they don’t have a sense of urgency then it’s unlikely that they’ll achieve anything substantial quickly. As businesses grow (and Facebook is no different) layers of bureaucracy develop that impede rapid progress. That must be countered by elevating the speed at which teams work.

(This sense of urgency was also identified as a key component of many other successful businesses. See Professor John Kotter’s work at Harvard on corporate urgency).

2. That no great achievements will occur unless Facebook’s staff maintain a spirit of challenging the status quo, even to the point of destroying what is already accepted as being best practice.

(This concept is similar to the Austrian American economist Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of ‘creative destruction’ ).

Zuckerberg urges his teams to keep these two mind filters front of mind, to ensure they don’t rest on Facebook’s existing achievements and that they keep pace with social media’s breakneck pace of progress.

We all should do the same.

A simple and effective way to do this is by continually following two strategies consistently.

1. Set Short, Unreasonable Deadlines. 

Only be putting time pressure on both yourself and your staff are you likely to push both to achieve at an unusually fast rate. Follow normal, reasonable deadlines and your chances of being faster than your competitors are low. Time pressure almost always brings out the best in people of talent.

2. Always Ask, ‘How Would the Next Great Company In My Sector Do This? ‘

We need to stop aiming for best of category and start thinking major disruption. The first gives you progress and perhaps brief leadership, the second gives you a chance at really changing the game and establishing medium to long term dominance.

In today’s uber fast business world, Zuckerberg’s simple philosophy is a potent mind tool to get the most out of yourself and your people. The two strategies above will help you bring that philosophy to life in the day to day running of your business.

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg”  by Ekatrina Walter

All great achievements start with passion. Passion is what fuels everything. Passion is what motivates you, whether your motivations are spiritual, artistic, political, economic, social, or personal. You know that you are passionate about something when you become restless, when you wake up every morning knowing that you cannot not create whatever it is that you are passionate about.

Passion is what shapes your purpose, in life and in business. When the idea for a venture starts taking shape, purpose is what ultimately helps define it. If you rally around the purpose and build a culture around it, you will meet success; if you lose your way, you will meet failure.

The success of your mission will depend on a lot of factors, one of the most critical of them is people – employees you hire and those you partner with. Whether you are a growing business or an established one, if you don’t have a team that shares your vision, your dream, and your goals, the business will not be able to reach its potential. No matter how you look at it, no matter which field you are in, no matter how brilliant your ideas are, success is a team sport. You can imagine the most amazing products or services in the world, but it requires people to make your dream a reality. That’s where culture and leadership become important.

Think Like Zuck

Think Like Zuck

In the book “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg Ekaterina  talk about the philosophy of notable leaders of our time. “Think Like Zuck” is an analogy of a leader who follows his passion, leads with purpose, builds great teams, and strives for continued excellence in her product (or services). It is a mentality that drives great leaders to building successful business and the approach they use to doing so. Facebook and its visionary Mark Zuckerberg are used as just one of the example of a leader who has a clear purpose in front of him and for whom that purpose drives all of his major personal and business decisions.

Zuckerberg believes that the world is moving toward radical transparency. To him, the information flow online shouldn’t be encumbered by, well, anything. He believes there should be no borders, no restrictions, no limitations on not only the way people connect and communicate online but in the way information is created, consumed, and shared.

In building Facebook, Zuckerberg was extremely focused on ensuring that the social graph he helped create online would be transparent and authentic. Authenticity is everything to him. Facebook was created on a principle of real-life identity and is intended to enhance your relationships with people you know in real life. One is not able to build trust inside online communities if one’s identity isn’t consistent and known to others. Hence, Facebook’s restriction of allowing only one profile per person. Believe it or not, people have been banned for creating multiple profiles. Facebook was the first social network to introduce this rule and demand compliance with it. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” says Facebook’s CEO.  “The level of transparency the world has now won’t support having two identities for a person.”  He believes that such transparency will also help build a healthier society.

Throughout the existence of the social network, Zuck stuck to his passion and to the purpose of Facebook’s creation. He always ensured that users came first and revenue second. Over the past eight years, he has been criticized for sacrificing revenue for users’ interests. But he always sailed his course. “I never wanted to run a company,” Zuckerberg said. “To me a business is a good vehicle for getting stuff done.” His belief in his company and its purpose was so strong, he declined to sell it over and over, even when Yahoo executives offered him $1 billion.

Money isn’t a priority to him; he is more interested in building something genuinely amazing than selling out. For the longest time, he rented a small apartment and slept on a mattress on the floor. He drove an Acura TSX. He doesn’t have fancy clothes, preferring T-shirts and hoodies. In the letter that accompanied the IPO, Zuck wrote: “Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.” In that he reminds me of Steve Jobs and his quote from a 1993 Wall Street Journal interview: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

“The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’ . . . Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time. And that’s what this company is.” says Zuckerberg.

Zuck’s business interests always aligned closely with his personal philosophy. He even encourages his employees to work on the projects they are passionate about, not the ones that are forcefully assigned to them. What an incredible way to take advantage of not only human competence, but full human potential. And what a great reminder to lead with purpose.

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Zen Buddhism and Mindful Leadership

Zen buddhism and mindful leadership

Zen is a practice of direct, unmediated awareness. It is not an intellectual exercise to develop a philosophy or theology. It is not belief in the contents of written works. It is not following a code of conduct. It is not an emotional catharsis. It is not performing good works.

Fundamentally Zen is being present here and now with what is here and now just as it is. It involves taking the energy of body and mind that we habitually use to create and maintain the “self” and focusing it on the present just as it is without interacting with what is going on. The key approach to achieving this focus is through Zen meditation. While reading about meditation and Zen may be helpful, reading and other activities are secondary to practice. In the practice we develop direct awareness, and we attempt with great calm and patience to bring this awareness to every moment of our life.

 Mindfulness practice, inherited from the zen buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. Scientific research into mindfulness generally falls under the umbrella of positive psychology. Research has been ongoing over the last twenty or thirty years, with a surge of interest over the last decade in particular. The establishment of buddhism predates the field of psychology by over two millennia; thus, any assessment of buddhism in terms of psychology is necessarily a modern invention.

The buddhists were, in a way, more advanced in the psychology of their ethics than aristotle — in a way, that is, which would now be called scientific. Buddha identifies four foundations for mindfulness, the body, feelings, mind states and mental objects. He further enumerates the following objects as bases for the meditative development of mindfulness.

He further described the body as breathing, postures, cemetery contemplations, and clear comprehending. Feelings could be pleasant neutral or unpleasant. Buddha described the two major paramount of the mental qualities generated by the meditation techniques which are insight and serenity. The insight enables the people to observe, explore and distinguish the objects of life. While the serenity also called as tranquility steadies, unifies, and compose concentrations to the mind.

Accept what nature offers, and work with it. Later, the effort becomes natural, effortless. And you are ever mindful. Sailing single-handed, especially, mindfulness is the rule of survival. Constantly aware of the slightest shift of the wind, a gathering of clouds on the horizon, a change of the texture of the sea. The feel of the rudder, the angle of the sails, the sound of the rigging, the motion of the boat, all become part of the whole that never wanders from your consciousness, it all works together, and if you lose this mindfulness, so mindfulness is in the practice. Present and aware.

 Buddha described the two major paramount of the mental qualities generated by the meditation techniques which are insight and serenity.

The insight enables the people to observe, explore and distinguish the objects of life. While the serenity also called as tranquility steadies, unifies, and compose concentrations to the mind.

 Mindful leadership for leaders

 Mindfulness is defined as ‘intentionally paying attention in the present moment and non-judgmental’. As leaders, it can also be thought of as the cultivation of leadership presence. Being present is quite a complex assignment in a world and global economy that measures time in internet seconds, conceives of the past as the most reliable tool for analyzing and assessing how to precede into the future, is increasingly interdependent and relational, and dedicates little or no time toward the development of presence in its leaders. But presence can be cultivated and is necessary for a leader to bring all of his/her mind’s capabilities to leadership.

 We can fuse western understanding about leadership with eastern wisdom about the mind to develop leaders who are self-aware and self-compassionate. People who are mindful—fully present and aware—can become more effective leaders.

 Leaders with low emotional intelligence often lack self-awareness and self-compassion, which can lead to a lack of self-regulation.  Authenticity is developed by becoming more self-aware and having compassion for oneself.  Group support provides nonjudgmental feedback in order to recognize blind spots, accept shortcomings, and gain confidence.

 Mindful leadership is a secular process to explore the roles of self-awareness and self-compassion in developing strong and effective leaders. Leaders who don’t develop self-awareness are subject to becoming seduced by external rewards, such as power, money, and recognition. They also have difficulty acknowledging mistakes, an achilles’ heel that has crippled a number of ceos who have appeared in the news recently.

We can explore  of how mindfulness can contribute to sustaining effective leadership. This of course is not a new idea. Self-awareness is central to daniel goleman’s emotional intelligence. It is relatively rare to find people who are fully self-aware.

Leaders with low emotional intelligence (EQ) often lack self-awareness and self-compassion, which can lead to a lack of self-regulation. This also makes it very difficult for them to feel compassion and empathy for others. Thus, they struggle to establish sustainable, authentic relationships.

 Leaders who do not take time for introspection and reflection may be vulnerable to being seduced by external rewards, such as power, money, and recognition. Or they may feel a need to appear so perfect to others that they cannot admit vulnerabilities and acknowledge mistakes. Some of the recent difficulties of Hewlett-packard, British Petroleum, CEOs of failed wall street firms, and dozens of leaders who failed in the post-Enron era are examples of this.

It  brings together Western understanding about leadership and Eastern wisdom about the mind, developed from practices that have been used for thousands of years, to contribute to the self-awareness and self-compassion of leaders.

Mindfulness is a state of being fully present, aware of oneself and other people, and sensitive to one’s reactions to stressful situations. Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.

People become more mindful through prayer, introspective discussions, therapy, and the use of reflective techniques.

Mindfulness is a logical step in this process of gaining self-awareness that should be combined with experiences in leading through challenging situations and gaining awareness through feedback and group support.

 mentorship is a one-to-one process with someone who has greater experience and is willing to share from that experience. Group support as practiced in groups consists of a small number of peers (usually five to eight) willing to share themselves and their lives and support each other through both good and difficult times. A key element of these groups is learning to give and receive nonjudgmental feedback in order to recognize blind spots, accept shortcomings, and gain the confidence to address great challenges in their lives.

 any business school committed to developing leaders needs to offer courses and other experiential opportunities that enable students to develop greater awareness of themselves, their motivations, and their strengths and shortcomings. This process is most effective when real-world experiences can be reflected upon to deepen self-understanding in a supportive and trusting environment. This is the central tenet of the authentic leadership development.

An essential aspect of effective leaders is authenticity; that is, being genuine and true to one’s beliefs, values, and principles that make up their right direction in life.

Authenticity is developed by becoming more self-aware and having compassion for oneself, without which it is very difficult to feel genuine compassion for others. Self-awareness starts with understanding one’s life story and the impact of one’s crucibles, and reflecting on how these contribute to motivations and behaviors. As people come to accept the less-favored parts of themselves that they do not like or have rejected, as well as learning from failures and negative experiences, they gain compassion for themselves and authenticity in relating to the world around them.

We have learned that the greatest challenges come when the pressures and seductions are intense. That is when it is most crucial to be self-aware.