Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Building a billion-dollar enterprise, 2 - Creating a corporate culture

I recently came across a blog post by Eric Ries, author of "The Lean Startup," about The Hacker Way as the heart of Facebook's culture.

The post reminds me of something I began to believe a couple of years ago: that a founding CEO's primary job is to create a corporate culture. Indeed, that is something a founding CEO does whether they intend to or not. So, it behooves a founder to do it with deep intention.

Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg did it with deep intention at Facebook, and he continues to do so. Reis quotes from Zuckerberg's letter accompanying Facebook's filing for an IPO:

The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it - often in the face of people who say it's impossible or are content with the status quo.

Zuckerberg says that at Facebook, The Hacker Way is expressed in five core values: 
  • focus on impact
  • move fast
  • be bold
  • be open
  • build social value.
I find all of that gratifying because I was already trying to incorporate the hacker ethos into my life, and I can buy into all of those values. So by living more fully what is already in my head, I may be able to produce results similar to Zuckerberg's.

Do I need to hack Homewood Nation? Do I need to get some people to help me hack Homewood Nation? What would doing that look like, and how might that affect the culture of Luminaria Productions?

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Wow, I wish I had a light bulb icon, because something just came on...I have viewed problems as annoying because I have not learned to regard problem-solving as fun, the way hackers do. One reason (not the only) is that I have not seen people having fun solving problems. I tend to be around people who deal with problems that seem inherently depressing, if not tragic. Not to mention intractable.

But my own response to problems is not entirely a result of what I see in other people. How can I learn to view problems as fun, rather than as merely annoying?

Part of the answer, I think, is to develop greater confidence that I can solve them. Which may best happen by consciously getting better at solving them. There are problem-solving strategies and approaches out there, available for the reading. Read. Think. Do. Learn.

Meanwhile, thinking about corporate cultures revives my fantasy of going to Pixar and saying, "I'd like to work here. I'll do anything. For free. Just let me learn how you guys do things."

I developed that fantasy before Disney gobbled Pixar, but Disney's another case to learn from. Walt Disney's been dead nearly 50 years, but Disney marches on. Without having read Walt Disney's life story, my first guess is that that's because he established a durable culture.

I must create a culture within Luminaria Productions within which people have fun solving problems. Which begins with me learning to have fun solving problems.

Now, THAT - should be....
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