How to Think Like Zuckerberg

Radhika Sivadi

3 min read ·


The author of a new book on the Facebook founder reveals some of the characteristics that makes Mark, Mark.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is one of the youngest billionaires in the world, and a visionary with over a billion customers affected by his decisions on a regular basis.

Of course, Mark doesn't run Facebook by himself, but he has created a culture and brought in top level partners like Sheryl Sandberg to run areas where her strengths are most appropriate. According to the author of Think Like Zuck, Ekaterina Walter, entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg use five main factors in creating their company: Purpose, passion, product, people and partnerships. Walter, who is a "social innovator" at Intel, interviewed many employees and Facebook partners to learn more about what it means to think like Zuck.

The 5 P's

"Every entrepreneur's vision is unique," said Walter. She continued: "Zuck's passion fueled his purpose, and based on this passion he knew exactly where he wanted to go. His vision was 'How do I make the world more social and provide radical transparency?' Purpose should be center of every business. If you don't know where you want to go, it won't work. Zuck knows his purpose regardless of external pressures, and provides clear direction for long-term strategy. Purpose then builds to create a solid product that people can relate to and use. But you can't create it alone, you need to bring the right people on board, create a culture fit, and get them to stand behind your purpose. You also need to partner smartly, with vendors, customers, or employees, and these partnerships need to compliment your skills and needs."

For example Sandberg compliments Zuck in many of the operational areas of the company.

Can You Really Build a Company from Purpose?

In the book, Walter discusses how business interests should align with the entrepreneur's personal philosophy. Her example was Jake Nickell of Threadless, whose purpose is to empower the community of artists to share their artwork with people around the world. "He knew nothing about business or fulfillment, but helped make these artists visible, and brought a community to life," she said.

I asked if every entrepreneur needs such a grand purpose. Walter cited pizza franchise owner Ramon DeLeon who delivers pizza through the snow, or randomly to pregnant women who tweet that they're hungry, because he's passionate about customers. For him, it's not about the food, but it's about the customers. "Even a coffee shop owner must love coffee, must love customers coming in," she added. That's their equivalent of making a great product like Zuck and the Facebook team.

Is Fun at Work Just a Gimmick?

Facebook provides free lunch, and has all nighter hackathons. Zappos managers sit in a monkey pit of decorations, palm trees, and bananas. Is this all just a gimmick? "There is time for play and time for work at these companies," said Walter. "They hire people who fit the culture, and it doesn't feel like work. Facebook has free meals so their people can sit together and talk about ideas, meet other team members, and create relationships. I meet with all my teammates at Intel, take them out to lunch, and learn about them. When you know them personally, you have an opportunity to help them, create advocacy, and create influence in a matrix organization. If you can be flexible with an employee that's dealing with a personal crisis, you will get back loyalty."

Leaders are Like Hummingbirds

One of the best areas of the book, and one that I would have expanded upon, is Walter's "Hummingbird Model of Leadership."

She cites 10 factors that are like characteristics of a humming bird, but the most important to her is flexibility. "Hummingbirds can fly forwards, backwards, and they can stop and hover, which few other animals can do. Leaders need the ability to go fast when needed, stop, think, assess and have an environment of agility where they can learn and move with flexibility. Leaders like Zuck and Jobs have this kind of ability. They have intuition, and they trust their purpose. For example, Zuck had the idea of Facebook as a platform in his "Book of Change" notes years before it was announced at the developer conference."

The book is available for download and will be in stores on January 15th.

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    Radhika Sivadi