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By all accounts, Mark Zuckerberg should have the world’s biggest hangover today. Yesterday was his 30th Birthday, and as one of the most successful and richest 30 year olds in the world he has a lot to celebrate. In Feb this year, Facebook also turned 10 years old.
But what you may not realise is the huge cultural shift which has occurred in the past year, led by Zuckerberg, to help the company “grow up”. The aim has been to develop a company culture that is more mature, but that still enables their people to innovate in exciting ways. And this cultural shift has coincided with the time when Facebook as a company has actually started reaping exceptional financial success. Over the past year, this mentality has apparently been producing real dividends, with the new mobile-platform strategy Mark Zuckerberg is championing has led to profits up over 190% YoY in their latest financial reports.
So here I want to pose the question: If companies want to ultimately become financially successful, do they at some point all need to grow up and get a more serious / mature culture?
Let me explain. Within the technology industry, Facebook has long been held up as a shining example of how to succeed by having smart people, but also having a cool mentality and cultural values. The founder Mark Zuckerberg was a genius university dropout, who would wear hoodies to business meetings and resisted selling his company for Billions of dollars. Employees would have their skill and imagination tested by programming challenges in alcohol-fueled hackathons. And there was the semi-official mantra of the company, even quoted by Zuckerberg in the filing of their IPO, which become a legend in Silicon Valley:
Move fast and break things
It represented a mindset that was willing to try out new ideas. Programmers could write crude versions of new functionality, and then release them to a subset of users, knowing full well that it wasn’t perfect and would need to be iterated upon. It was this mindset that enabled Facebook to roll out and test a multitude of new features, some of which have been game-changers (the newsfeed, graph search, the “like” button), some of which have been failures (facebook currency, notes, games which spam you), and many behind the scenes innovations (server design, databases, flash storage). Either way, it resulted in a huge amount of innovation.
Then, at this years F8 Facebook Developer conference, Zuckerberg announced that the motto had changed. He spoke on stage that now it was the decidedly less sexy: Move Fast with Stable Infra