Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What Lessons Can We Learn From "Social Network"

With all the debate about the movie "The Social Network" largely resolving around the principal character, a fictional Mark Zuckerberg, I think many forget it's also about a company called FaceBook. And it's from this story of how FaceBook came into existence and rose to the top in social media that we can lean what it takes to build a business and make it succeed.

For while FaceBook is a new business in a field of business that didn't exist only a few short year ago it still was built and operates by same the basic principles that have always been there.

It is these underlying principals we can learn and apply to ourselves and our businesses. For as this movie shows a business to succeed must, in the end, find ways to solve problems as old as mankind its self.

So to take that "amazing idea" from just an idea to a successful business requires certain steps and as we saw those who fail to follow those steps may end up on the sidelines. For while Mark saw his dream come true many of those who also saw the same dream fell by the wayside.

And as this article from so artfully details we need to remember business requires both a dream and a plan. Things just don't go from dream to plan to successes without a lot of work. And if we expect to be there in the end we need to remember to do business as a business. For all the success Mark achieves many failed to share in that success just because they forgot that.

So what I took from this movie as the main points to keep and mind were:

1. If it’s not in writing it doesn’t exist. All of Marks friends and early colleges failed to remember that. They didn’t keep records and thus they didn’t protect themselves. I tell clients all the time, “Write everything down and find a way to validate it.”

2. Don’t trust that agreements are understood nor respected by everyone involved. It takes constant vigilance and attention to what’s going on to be sure that things don’t change or that someone involved doesn’t stage a mutiny and leave you behind.

3. Not everyone is someone you can work with for the long term. Many of the people involved with Mark should have seen that they and Mark just weren’t going to be able to stay on the same project. They would have been better to have worked out an agreement and left rather than stay until they were forced out with little or nothing.

4. Don’t take business decisions personally. When you start to take business decisions and differences of opinion personally you lost the ability to deal effectively with them. Once things become a personal battle then there have to be winners and losers. That’s not business that’s war.

5. Understand your real role and position in a project. Early on everyone involved with the startup that became FaceBook felt they were the leader. That just can’t be. There can only be one leader and if that leader isn’t clearly defined then everyone will fight until a leader is established. That kind of fight leaves bodies all along the way.

So I hope you both enjoyed the movie and keep in mind the lessons that can be learned from it.

Amplify’d from

While you might not want to “friend” Mark Zuckerberg’s character after seeing the “The Social Network,” there is no denying that the film gives you a window into the zeal of the entrepreneur and teaches lessons about business practices and entrepreneurship, particularly “what not to do.”

Much of the film centers on the controversy over the ownership of the idea of “The Facebook,” Zuckerberg’s supposed treatment of friends and colleagues, and his general demeanor on his path to becoming a billionaire. Yet, there is something to be said for the fact that Facebook is a tremendous success story. Facebook’s high valuation is the result of a brilliant idea that was driven to succeed by a hardworking crew of passionate believers willing to invest the time, energy, and money to make a concept a reality.

After seeing a sneak preview of the movie, I came away with these takeaways for entrepreneurs:

  • A brilliant idea is just that … until you put it into action. The movie features an intellectual property lawsuit in which fellow Harvard students claim Zuckerberg stole their idea. Lesson learned? The world waits for no man. If you are smart enough to come up with a winning concept or idea, keep it to yourself or enlist partners you trust with confidentiality agreements in writing — or better yet, get a patent.
  • Go for the 3,000-lb. marlin. Your picture won’t be in the paper if you net 14 trout in one fishing trip — but it will be if you catch a 3,000-lb. marlin. Push your entrepreneurial vision to its limit and go after it. Don’t settle for what is easily accomplished and miss out on realizing the idea of a lifetime.
  • Be forthright with your business partners. A second lawsuit that shaped the movie’s plot featured Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin suing Zuckerberg for essentially pushing him out of the company. Zuckerberg’s character never plainly tells Saverin that his business-development ideas don’t fit with his grand vision for Facebook (fed by Naptster’s Sean Parker), and he then proceeds to dilute Saverin’s shares in the company. The lesson — communicate with your partners, listen to their advice, work to gain their buy-in and know when to cut business ties.
  • Your business is only as good as its latest review. At one point in the film, Zuckerberg’s character goes into meltdown mode when he fears that Facebook’s site may crash. His point? It only takes the site crashing on one person to create frustration and negative word of mouth. Consistency builds customer trust, and once lost, it is difficult to regain.
  • Businesses should be like fashion, ever changing with the times. Zuckerberg’s character makes the key point early in the film that “Facebook” is never “done.” The site is constantly evolving to be a better and more comprehensive product.

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