Only one new book debuted on the Wall Street Journal business best-selling list, published on July 16-17, p. C10.
The book is entitled Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez (New York: Harper, 2016). The book was distributed on June 28, 2016, and debuted at # 5 in the list, which is incredibly high. It has also been on the New York Times best-seller list, thus qualifying the book as a potential selection at our First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
One description of the book is “Liar’s Poker meets The Social Network in an irreverent exposé of life inside the tech bubble.”
Here is a summary of the book, from Amazon.com:
“After stints on Wall Street and as CEO of his own startup, García Martínez joined Facebook’s nascent advertising team, turning its users’ data into profit for COO Sheryl Sandberg and chairman and CEO Mark “Zuck” Zuckerberg. Forced out in the wake of an internal product war over the future of the company’s monetization strategy, García Martínez eventually landed at rival Twitter. He also fathered two children with a woman he barely knew, committed lewd acts and brewed illegal beer on the Facebook campus (accidentally flooding Zuckerberg’s desk), lived on a sailboat, raced sport cars on the 101, and enthusiastically pursued the life of an overpaid Silicon Valley wastrel.
“Now, this gleeful contrarian unravels the chaotic evolution of social media and online marketing and reveals how it is invading our lives and shaping our future. Weighing in on everything from startups and credit derivatives to Big Brother and data tracking, social media monetization and digital “privacy,” García Martínez shares his scathing observations and outrageous antics, taking us on a humorous, subversive tour of the fascinatingly insular tech industry. Chaos Monkeys lays bare the hijinks, trade secrets, and power plays of the visionaries, grunts, sociopaths, opportunists, accidental tourists, and money cowboys who are revolutionizing our world. The question is, will we survive?”
I haven’t read this book yet, and I don’t know if we will present it at the First Friday Book Synopsis. But, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that people love to buy books that are exposes. Also, books about scandals sell very well. Perhaps that is how this book vaulted all the way to # 5 in its debut on the best-selling list.
What have you learned?
When have you learned?
How do you keep learning?
Does the average employee get better at his or her job?
Does the average company/organization actually help people learn, so that that they can get better?
Are you getting better at your job? (Yes, go ahead and ask me: “Are you, Randy Mayeux, getting better at your job?)
Here’s Wikipedia’s description of a learning organization:
A learning organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. Learning organizations develop as a result of the pressures facing modern organizations and enables them to remain competitive in the business environment. A learning organization has five main features; systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning.
For an organization to be a learning organization, it has to be made up of learning individuals. Don’t you think?
So, what are some traits of a learning individual? Here are some thoughts:
When an individual gets new information that “demands/compels” some change, he actually makes that change.
When she is lacking information, she seeks that information, and finds out where to find new information.
When he begins to notice (and he will begin to notice!) that his thinking is stale (and his thinking will get stale!), he will seek and ask for ideas from outside – way outside—his comfort zone. He will read books and articles from authors/sources he would have earlier simply rejected.
Which, by the way, reminds us – learning individuals will read. A lot. And then some more. And she will especially embrace the value of the longform – essay length articles, and books. Tweets simply may not have enough content to teach much.
And, in remembering that “bias for action” that Tom Peters wrote about (theme #1 in In Search of Excellence: A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving), have you seen the movie The Social Network? In the admittedly fictionalized version of Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook, that trait about Zuckerberg just jumps out at you. When he got the “idea,” he pounced. Immediately. I mean, literally, immediately – he would jump up, run to his dorm room, and go to work. He would work in 36-hour-sprints to implement the idea. First the idea – then the work. He knew how to code, he knew how to make it real, but he needed the idea. He learned the idea, and then he implemented the idea — right then!
Now that is a learning individual. And though it would help immensely if your organization helped you learn, you can become a more effective learning individual without the help of the organization. It.is.your.job! to make yourself an active learning individual.
Here’s a rather obvious recommendation: If you live in the DFW area, make the First Friday Book Synopsis a part of your regular schedule. You will hear content-rich synopses of 24 books a year, and receive valuable handouts in the process.
You will definitely learn valuable information. But then, it is up to us – all of us – to turn this information into a new, more effective, reality. And, until we do that, we haven’t really learned anything at all.
As one newcomer put it just last Friday, “why haven’t I been here before? I will not miss it…”
News item — Murdoch’s News Corp ponders MySpace sale: Loss-making social networking site has found it tough competing with rivals Facebook and Twitter.
I have asked my students this question: “How many of you have a Myspace page? How about a Facebook page? My experience is this – Myspace came and went in the blink of an eye, and Facebook has come, and stayed, and all of my students not only have a Facebook page, but use it constantly. (In fact, my own son, who – how do I say this delicately?…, is not too interested in reading my blog posts…, actually reposted my recent blog post on obesity from my Facebook link to his Facebook link).
Facebook has clearly and soundly defeated Myspace, and at the moment no rival seems to be rising to make much of a dent in its dominance. Why?
Here’s one reason – Mark Zuckerberg is one of those rare business geniuses. Of course it takes a team: the right people with the right skills and the right chemistry working together throughout the entire enterprise… But it takes a singular vision from a key/the key player. Consider Steve Jobs. Consider Mark Zuckerberg.
But at the heart of this competition stands the focus of this modern day business genius – a constant, unyielding focus on innovation.
Here is a brief excerpt from a story about the decline of Myspace that captures this (from the Huffington Post, How News Corp Got Lost In Myspace by Yinka Adegoke, Reuters):
Zuckerberg’s great strength, say his one-time rivals from Myspace, was that he and his team were focused on product development and innovation while Myspace had become too concerned with revenue and meeting traffic targets of its Google deal.
“The technology fell behind and it just shows that even when you have a massive user base you still need to offer something new to keep people engaged,” said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.
A focus on innovation and product development produces the possibility of dominance. A focus on revenue produces vulnerability.
By the way, what’s your business focus?
By the way, take a look at the bottom of this blog post. With a click of your mouse, you can post this to your Facebook page. (Please do so!) Do you see the Myspace button? I didn’t think so…
Constant innovation. That is the unending mantra. Constant innovation.
Quick – which two modern companies jump to mind when you hear that phrase? Apple & Facebook. They both ooze constant innovation.
And they are both run by people who are incredibly powerful/influential within their companies. What they want, they get! If Steve Jobs wants something in Apple, it happens. If Mark Zuckerberg wants something in Facebook, he gets it.
On the Daily Beast, How Zuckerberg Changed the World by David Kirkpatrick lists ten reasons why Zuckerberg deserves the Time Person of the Year Award. The article is headed by a one word banner: INNOVATION. Here are two of the ten reasons. They both speak to this constant innovation mantra.
Zuckerberg, as CEO, has always had absolute and total control over the evolution of this stunningly successful operation. He controls three of five board seats, and thus cannot be dislodged or overruled. Facebook really is a reflection of his will and his vision.
Reason # 10:
Zuckerberg pushes Facebook to continually change and improve its product, and that has kept it growing and relevant. In April, the company dramatically extended its platform. In August, it created a new location-based service called “Facebook Places” which enables users to tell friends and businesses where they are. In November, it announced a radical new form of messaging which many experts believe will replace email for hundreds of millions. In addition, throughout the year it grew its “Facebook credits” product to become the primary way people spend money in games on the service. Credits could become a sort of global money inside the walls of Facebook. And a landmark Skype partnership announced in October could make the process of making a voice or video call dramatically easier—who needs to remember numbers when you will be able to just click on a name in your Facebook friend list?
Constantly make things better – constantly innovate. Have enough power to make it happen. This is the path to follow in this very modern, constantly changing era.
“When you decide to sell off your problems, don’t sell off your best people. This is one of those little secrets of change. If you create a place where the best people always have a seat on the bus, they’re more likely to support changes in direction.”
“At the top levels of your organization, you absolutely must have the discipline not to hire until you find the right people. The single most harmful step you can take in a journey from good to great is to put the wrong people in key positions. Second, widen your definition of ‘right people’ to focus more on the character attributes of the person and less on specialized knowledge. People can learn skills and acquire knowledge, but they cannot learn the essential character traits that make them right for your organization. Third – and this is the key – take advantage of difficult economic times to hire great people, even if you don’t have a specific job in mind.”
Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t.
Over twenty years ago, a large Christian publishing firm bought a quite small, but rapidly growing Christian publishing firm. Why? The large firm wanted the President of the small firm to work for them – and thought the easiest way to make that happen was to buy the company. That President later became the leader of the entire company.
The lesson – you do what you can to get the best people. Getting the best people provides the single greatest strategic advantage. Whatever else is second is a distant second.
The latest example of putting this wisdom into practice comes from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. To state it simply, he buys companies to get people. Here are a couple of excerpts from: Mark Zuckerberg: “We Buy Companies To Get Excellent People”:
Speaking to an audience at Y Combinator’s Startup School last weekend, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that “Facebook has not once bought a company for the company itself. We buy companies to get excellent people.”
Facebook’s chief is on the prowl for top talent. And scooping up that talent has recently meant absorbing the companies they run.
Here’s the video of Zuckerberg talking about this practice:
Getting the right people. Mastering talent acquisition. The history of success is a history of products and people. And it is always people that find/discover/invent the products and the systems that lead to success. Getting the right people really is critically important.
Confession time. I’m still pretty (very!) uncertain about how to take advantage of Facebook and LinkedIn. I’m still learning how to actually use Twitter. And I have friends, a son, a brother, who try to tell me how to do things with my computer, and I just have great trouble “getting it.” It’s so embarrassing!
By the way, I speak regularly to residents at retirement communities on Current Events, and I try to help them learn about this brave new world. And it really is almost like the blind leading the blind. They think I am some kind of modern marvel because I have a blog – and my brother and son think I am some kind of Luddite… (though they are very kind about it).
Well, enough introduction. Here are two articles worth checking out: one about Facebook, the other about LinkedIn. They haven’t helped me use these two sites more effectively, but they have helped me understand their potential a little more.
In the New York Times’ Zuckerberg: Non-Evil Non-Genius? by Robert Wright, we learn again the good fortune of being really quick to understand, and the absolute necessity of being in the right place at the right time. Here are some excerpts:
Now communities would be defined not at all by geography — by the bounds of a campus — but only by the mutual-consent links that don’t seem to have been part of Zuckerberg’s original vision.
In retrospect, I think there was something uniquely powerful about this path — building islands of dominance at elite universities, spreading to less elite universities, then linking the islands and finally abandoning geography altogether as the organizing principle. I think this path gave Facebook a momentum that helped it dislodge the pre-existing social networks Friendster and MySpace. And it’s fairly clear that the path wasn’t planned.
My own view of technological history is that this is often the way big leaps happen. The people we call visionaries and geniuses, like Bill Gates, typically weren’t any more prescient than some of their rivals. They were mainly just in the right place at the right time.
Sure, they were really smart, and they had some other key features. Gates and Zuckerberg shared an instinct that helped them exploit network externalities: they were always willing to sacrifice short-term profit in exchange for growing market share.
And, of course, both of them played hardball. I’m not aware of any tactical deceptions Gates perpetrated that were as egregious as Zuckerberg’s duping of the Winklevosses, but none of Gates’s competitors ever confused him with Mr. Rogers.
It’s certainly possible, as Sorkin suggests, to be an evil genius. But the much more common condition is to be not quite evil and not quite a genius. When your co-star is positive network externalities, that’s plenty.
And in The Social Network That Gets Down to Business by Miguel Helft, we learn of one businesswoman who is learning how to use LinkedIn to grow her business. Here are some brief excerpts:
Joanna Wiseberg began Red Scarf Equestrian, which makes stylish handbags and other luxury goods for horse lovers, two years ago, just as the economy plunged into recession. “My business is a niche within a niche…
Her tool was LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals that is often perceived as a workaday cousin to the social butterfly of Facebook. But as Ms. Wiseberg discovered, LinkedIn is actually more than just a place for job seekers to post a résumé. “I wouldn’t be here without LinkedIn,” she said.
For any company in the social networking business, it is not easy living in the shadow of Facebook and Twitter. With 500 million users connecting with friends, trading photos, videos and articles, or whiling the time away on social games, Facebook has pretty much locked up the field. For its part, Twitter has carved a solid niche for those interested in broadcasting their thoughts 140 characters at a time.
But with its unabashed utilitarian bent, LinkedIn has built a presence in social media. Anyone with a career, a business or ambitions to climb the corporate ladder can network with 75 million people who use it, in large part, to find jobs or to recruit candidates for jobs.
Network as if LinkedIn were a big industry trade show. Search for people you know and invite them to be part of your network. Regular users of LinkedIn say a common mistake that newcomers make is to limit their network. So how many is enough?
There are no absolutes, but Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, says that 35 connections appears to be the minimum to make the viral properties of social networks truly useful. (As in any network, you don’t want to include people who could drag down your reputation. LinkedIn lets you deflect unwanted invitations with the Archive button so no one knows they have been rejected by you.)
“I had to go global, because the market in Canada is too small,” Ms. Wiseberg said. “I’m getting there.”
A few observations:
#1 – Learning to use the tools of this new social network connected world is almost a necessity, especially for the independent consultant, self-employed world so many of us live and work in. We almost have to take the time to figure it out.
#2 – The tools make it easier for us, all the time. My blog is automatically updated on my LinkedIn page. This really helps me. At the bottom of every blog post are all of these buttons (I don’t even understand what each of them links to/how people use them…). I practically always use the “tweet” button, putting each blog post on Twitter. Others use some of the other buttons. (I hope you will to). In other words, the sites keep finding ways to help non-experts, like me.
#3 – The younger folks beat us baby boomers on all of these.
A while back, we had a wonderful session on LinkedIn as a bonus program after a First Friday Book Synopsis. I tried to describe the session to my son – and he had this glazed over look in his eyes. His attitude was, “who needs a session on how to do this?” I had to explain to him that his old dad needed such a session. He was perplexed.
In other words, the college students who use Facebook (of course, they all do!) don’t ever read anything about how to use Facebook, don’t take seminars on how to use Facebook… they just use Facebook. And, they get it, and understand its value. Me?…not so much.
So, the younger you are, the easier it is to use all of the tools in the brave new world. For folks my age, it is constantly a challenge.
Anyway, read these two articles. If you are a baby boomer, they will help you understand, and maybe spur you on a little to tackle using these tools more energetically. If you are my son’s age, you’ve quit reading this blog post long ago…