Over the weekend I discovered some excellent thoughts on growing a company from someone who worked on the growth team at Facebook. The author describes some of the key components of the strategy to grow as much as possible as fast as possible. Not surprising was that people and culture were the foundation that strategy and tactics were launched from. 

Most companies get this wrong. They have a strategy but no clearly defined goal to measure it against - Or they keep changing the goal which is worse. Company culture is often too far down on the list for managers to be able to engage any meaningful support from the troops.

It’s never been harder to be a great company or a great manager. Understanding people and culture as the yin to a framework and execution yang is only part of the greater puzzle. Resisting the natural inclination to make things more complex is another. The keys to the castle are a simple and easily understood goal. 

It’s simple but it’s not easy. 

If you’re selling I’m not buying, and it’s been that way for a while now. Maybe it’s because I’m part of a younger generation that watched selling descend into the toilet over the last decade or maybe I’m just one of the lucky people who “get it”. In either case, for me and mine it’s all about relationship and value.

Anyone who has spent time on Techmeme can easily measure how much attention a particular event or industry story is getting. Appearing at the top of the page is one clue but not every story that appears at the top of the page becomes a “big” story. Gabe Rivera explains on the Techmeme blog that the really big stories gather in a stack of headlines that can exceed the height of your screen several times. 

If you follow tech in any way it’s easy to guess that Steve Jobs, Apple, and the iPhone were huge stories. I’d wager that the collection of stories following Steve Jobs passing were the biggest of all time for the site. The rest of the list looks like a lot of jockeying by other tech giants. Unfortunately for those giants, they spent most of the year stumbling and giving up ground to other players.

I’ve read Techmeme for years and check in almost daily. The thing that strikes me about this list is how much the focus has shifted to the user. Devices, software, and services that are beautiful and intuitive stand center stage while data centers, processors, and other nuts and bolts have been pushed backstage. 

People seem to be more enamored with the creators in the industry as well. Jony Ive is on his way to becoming a household name and was recently knighted. Jack Dorsey is often featured in required reading among business publications. The amazing design skills of 21 year old Danny Trinh landed him on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. And if the Forbes list is any indication, I’d expect more of the same in 2012. 

It looks like content is still king - we’re just shifting to a better, richer story. 

On Sheeple, Green Pastures

Chances are high that the term Sheeple has made it into your lexicon by now. You can find the definition easily enough or even guess - people that act like sheep. If you know the term or have experienced people that fit the description you immediately conjur thoughts of how these people act and some of the negative effects they can have. But be careful, thinking differently and acting differently are two separate matters. You could be behaving like sheeple and not even know it.

I’m happy to assign some blame to educational systems and corporate cultures that seem perfectly content in churning out armies of drones. Coloring outside the lines is usually frowned upon in both institutions. Sure, there’s value in understanding methods and procedures - but what about creating new things that fall outside the established framework? What are the methods and procedures for creativity or innovative behavior? How the hell do you even begin to write the handbook for breaking all the rules and making new ones without running afoul of everything you understand about the world?

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This is an interesting study but but something about the language in the article smacks of not getting it - that goes double for the people in the comments. The fact of the matter is that devices and access to the internet can be a huge perk to knowledge workers and managers.

Starting with devices - I’m easily a third more productive (and 100 times as happy) with my MacBook Air and iPhone than I was with a company issued Dell laptop and Blackberry. I was certainly able to do my job on the latter, but all the crashes (on the computer) and lack of useful apps (on the Blackberry) were just a drag. IT will say that they exert control in the name of data security but it’s a total sham. Let the people who can handle BYOT do it - you can even say “as long as they aren’t an undue burden on IT”. You will get productivity and happiness from your workers and managers.

As for social media - I’m not a regular defender of these products but the article doesn’t really define what’s in and what’s not. LinkedIn is a huge social network specifically for the workplace. It’s about making and maintaining professional contacts and networking, what’s wrong with that? It could also be argued that Twitter is a quick and easy way to learn what’s going on in the world rather than reading most news sites which are designed to keep visitors on the site as long as possible. I don’t use Facebook, but I can’t imagine a quick FB message being dramatically worse than a text message. 

The point is this: People goof off in the workplace. Some get all their work done and then goof off and others sprinkle a little goofing off throughout the day.

The same people that freak out over other peoples devices and social media are the ones that criticize productive workers who would choose to read a newspaper on their break. They also tend to be the people who aren’t getting their work done and therefore won’t command these types of perks in the workplace.

I understand Millenials who would consider taking a slight paycut (they don’t say how much) for a more pleasant work life. A lot of them have probably grown up watching their parents grind out miserable jobs where the crappy middle managers idea of team building was Hawaiian shirt day.

The whole time I was reading this I couldn’t help but think of three words: Innovate-or-die. So far as I can tell, the only people left carrying Blackberrys (Blackberries?) are corporate types who’s organization has invested heavily in BIS. Oftentimes those people are carrying it as a second device along with their iPhone or Android personal line. Oftentimes because they can’t get their corporate email on their other device or don’t know how.

The more people ask ‘How come I have better equipment at home?’ the worse things will get for Blackberry.

In a way it’s funny to watch people attempt to figure out how to run a world-class business. First it’s a singular focus: “superior design” or “advertising greatness”, basically doing one thing well. Then combinations of things, doing two things well: “it’s that they have superior design and advertising greatness”. When it’s really the singular collection of many things (or maybe all things). It’s the focus and determination to do everything well and getting a large group of people to move in the same direction over a lengthy period of time. It’s a long and difficult game. It’s simple but it’s not easy.