What ‘The Social Network’ teaches us about business innovation.
What is it about the Zuckerberg story and how he founded Facebook that is drawing so much interest? The obvious answer is that he has become the world’s youngest billionaire at 26 years old and people would love to know how he did it. The film of course is a more than a story of building wealth – that would be boring – it’s about the network of friends and collaborators that helped Mark Z build his business. He doesn’t come across too well in the film, but as a geeky and duplicitous, though brilliant nerd, with no social skills and a chip on his shoulder because his girlfriend dumped him. Part of the story is about him apparently stealing the idea for Facebook from two twin brothers from Harvard who had approached him to work on a similar idea, as well as his dealings with his Facebook co-founder and how over time he was squeezed out of the company. But, the impression we are left with should not be that it was all about the idea for Facebook that mattered, and Zuckerberg’s success is due to being opportunistic: that misses the point. Zuckerberg succeeded because he did what all great entrepreneurs did: he saw the beginnings of an idea, no doubt inspired by the twin’s idea, and from it created a big bold vision that nothing would deter him from. He put all of his energy and ability into making it happen because he saw its huge potential. A key part to staying true to the vision was the advice of Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster, who like Zuckerberg saw the potential of Facebook to be absolutely transformation in the role the web can play in people’s social lives.
So what lessons can we learn from the Zuckerberg story:
1. Ideas are two a penny, it’s what we do with them that counts.
2. Often there isn’t one single ‘big idea’ when it comes to business, it’s a combination of many small ideas that make something compelling.
3. Creating a vision to where you want your idea venture to go is key.
4. Execution is everything. Facebook works because it fulfills a basic human need and is easy to use.
5. Collaborate with people who share your vision and offer skills you don’t have.