Facebook is currently one of the worlds strongest brands. Right up there with Coca Cola, Google, Apple and Microsoft. You may Like Facebook, or not. No matter your personal preference, a huge amount of the worlds population are registered, and use it regularly.
A little while back, Facebook did their IPO (Initial Public Offering) and went public.
A company going public mean they can raise money to develop their products, services and markets. For the owners, going public mean they can harvest some of the profits they are due by selling their shares, thus getting paid for possibly long and frustrating hours, days and weeks. And for many owners and companies alike, they consider their IPO to be the finishing line; statements like “We did it, let’s buy a huge boat and sail into the sunset!” are common.
Not so for the Facebook team.
Trade-off challenges of bringing on investors
For both the company and the owners, bringing on external investors pose a trade-off challenge - the investors will expect some kind of control over the company, reasoning that “We know best how to make money”, while the owners who need the money in order to reach their goals, reason “As long as I can build great products (by getting money to build them), I can give away some control.”
What happens when an entrepreneur, whom built a great product by leading, managing and controlling the development with passion, frustration and engagement, discover that he no longer are in charge of calling the vital shots? When a tough decision is second guessed by a VC who’s main focus is to reduce his own financial risk and to maximize short-term profit?
A dark history of short-sightedness
Take a look at the now famous and all-but-sanctified Steve Jobs. Of course, he wasn’t right in every choice he made, yet he had an instinct, an intuitive draw to what would be the right choice - when it came to leadership, product development and market development. We all know his endeavors. And we all know that he was kicked out of his own company by the “worried” investors, whom then later almost killed Apple.
And mind you, Steve Jobs is only the most prominent example of this battle of short-term profit vs. long-term profitability.
Talk to any entrepreneur with experience with investors, and they will share the frustration that arises when an investor over-rules a decision the entrepreneur knows is the right one.
Doing the right thing
Sometimes people with different ideas surfaces. Mark Zuckerberg is one such person. When he set out to create a better world, he realized that in order to do that, he would have to stay in charge no matter what. He realized that investors and many shareholders have a short-term focus, where they are likely (and happy) to trade great products for short-term profit. Such a conclusion is not hard to reach when you look at the recent history of companies failing to sustain a long-term profitability, because the shareholders expect and demand short-term profit and dividend paid.
What is rather unique when it comes to Mr. Zuckerberg and his Facebook, is how he maneuvered to stay in charge. To name but a few examples:
- Facebook have different classes of shares, and only one that gives voting rights
- Long-term sustainability is, and has been the focus for the Facebook team, effectively creating a “Us” vs. “Them (the investors)” attitude
- Creating a “We are on a mission to change the world” acceptance within Facebook makes it easier for the team to accept his control
- Mr. Zuckerberg owns ca 57% of the voting shares of Facebook, meaning no-one can overrule him
- Mr. Zuckerberg are well aquatinted with the public eye, making it hard to believe that criticism in media would get to him personally
After the public offering of Facebook, the share price dropped far below the initial price. This automatically gets the howling wolf-pack to, well, howl. Claims like “Mark Zuckerberg Must Step Down as CEO of Facebook” are all over the news. It’s the usual short-sightedness of shareholders, stock analytics and other profiteers with only their own profit in mind. (And of course the journalists whom no longer seem interested nor trained to asked qualified questions, and to look for the reasoning behind such outcries).
My pocket, or a better world?
What we see is an echo of what I think is wrong with the currently accepted investment paradigm. As soon as someone no longer are satisfied with his or her current situation (the investor no longer like the development of the stock (s)he is holding), (s)he seeks to blame someone else (usually the company CEO), and never seem to analyze his or her own part of the game.
It’s like a mirror of the western society - “It wasn’t me, it was someone/thing else” - what I call the illness of blaming others.
The IPO of Facebook, and it’s after-match clearly show this paradigm.
If the one’s complaining today had bothered to read the IPO documentation, they would not be surprised at all. In fact, they probably would not have bought those stocks at all. And they would have realized that Mr. Zuckerberg is at Facebook to stay. They would have understood that the one and only reason to invest in Facebook at the time of the IPO would be to stick around for a long, long time.
Because that is how Mark Zuckerberg intends to run this company - to create lasting change in a sustainable company. He is not flawless, and he is just as likely as the rest of us to make mistakes. And I believe he, just like the rest of us, should be allowed to continue his experiment.
He is, after all, a man on a mission. Can you say the same about yourself?
Illustration by tsevis. Used with permission (CC).
I had the most peculiar experience today. I took my son and a couple of his friends over to a skate park nearby. While I were reading and enjoying the sun, the boys were trying out some new tricks with their boards. At one point, Kiddo fell, and hurt his foot. After some initial inspection, we decide to go to the hospital to mitigate a possible broken foot.
At the hospital waiting room, after all the controls are over, we enjoy a glass of ice-cold water in the heat. An ambulance driver walks by, poor herself a glass of water, and I just happen to say
«Hi, busy day today?»
She smiles back at me, and say she wouldn’t know, she is stationed at Geilo.
I had never seen the woman before, and I have no clue as to why I had to ask her how her day was. She were dressed in the bright red uniform the ambulance personnel use in Norway, and I noticed two stars on her shoulder, showing an experienced ambulance worker. I would guess her to be around my age, possibly a little younger.
I took a closer look at her, and decided I would ask her a very personal question. It went like this:
«Geilo. Did you, by any chance, happen to be at work the 25th august 2009?»
I noticed a slight shift in her attention. Just a tiny shift in how she held her head, like a student paying closer attention to the teacher. I could see that she immediately remembered that day. Or night, as it was. Just like that fateful night was imprinted in my memories, and will be until I am dead or ridden with Alzheimer's, her memories were vivid and present. Even two-and-a-half years later, we both carry those memories with us.
«Do you mean that truck accident?» she had to ask. Before she bursted out:
«Was that you?»
A wall of memories and emotions broke for both of us. I realized this was the lady who had held my hand, keeping me awake and alive while the full rescue team chopped the truck into pieces to free me of that metal coffin.
«I only knew your name was Kai,» she said after we had done a proper introduction. «I had no idea where you came from, nor how you were doing», she continued.
We went on talking about the experience, and she told me that they had not expected to find me alive, and they really did not think I would pull through. Yet, I know they did everything in their powers to get me out alive.
One thing I learned in my accident back in 2009 is that I am on a mission. And I have not yet fulfilled that mission, that I why I was sent back. I also know that doing the right thing, choosing the right path so that I can fulfill my mission, that is part of the mission. Yet, I wake up every day to the same numb feeling of not doing the right thing. Just because some times it is so much harder to get out of bed, when it feels like I am fighting a loosing battle. I am yet to understand what my mission is. Or even worse - I am yet to accept that my mission require me to do what is right, not just what is easy.
Meeting one of my saviors again today, totally by accident, at a location I would normally never be, forced me back into reflection about the whole accident thing. I have avoided the topic for some time, as it makes me emotional and vulnerable. I know it is stupid. And I know what really make me weak is to avoid dealing with the emotions and the memories.
During our short meeting, I decided it is time for me to go back to the accident location - something I have been dreading since the time of the accident. I know I need to go there to thank the rescue crew, and to confront my fears. I agreed to go to Geilo during easter to meet with everyone from the rescue. It is time. For a non-accidental meeting with destiny.
Todd Nielsen is running a blogathlon this month of March. I have contributed one article on reflection used as a leaders tool.
The article explain how to cope with the TTI - Time+Topic=Impact, and I discuss how to find the time to reflect, possible ideas to come up with topics to discuss, and how the two T's create great impact.
Why don't you jump over to Todd's A Slice of Leadership blog to read and comment Reflective leadership you too? We are having a great discussion going on!
There have been a lot of discussion about learning styles when it comes to how people learn. New research suggests there is no evidence supporting the idea of adjusting the teaching to the preferred learning style of each individual learner improve the learning.
What is a learning style?
Learning styles describe the idea that people have different preferences as to how they learn best. I believe Kolb were one of the earlier proponents of learning styles, explaining how people with preference to one style over another, would learn better (or more) if the teaching methods incorporated tools, examples and methods that would support that particular style. For example, someone with a visual learning style is thought to learn better if taught using more visuals, for example graphical symbols.
Dan Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia concludes that there is no scientific proof that learning styles are as effective as claimed. In fact, «We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he says, "and until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used.»
This is of course interesting, since a whole industry have been built upon the science of Learning Styles. A whole generation of trainers and teachers are incorporating learning styles in their classes and courses. And I am quite certain (while I do not have any scientific proof to support me), that many of those classes and courses are successfully creating great learning.
Willingham goes on to point out that what science do show, is that «Mixing things up» in a learning situation «boosts attention», and that paying closer attention creates better learning.
I don’t know about you, but I can say that to me, Learning Styles is not about accommodating one style only. The point is to understand that there are (or, until scientifically proved, possibly are) different preferred ways to learn, which translates into trying to mix these different styles in your training class or course. There may be some providers who miss this point, and if so, that is sad. To my knowledge, those who discuss and use learning styles in their classes and courses, do get the point. They mix things up (pun intended), so every learning style get some attention.
This is a response to this article: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/29/139973743/think-youre-an-audi...
When I wrote my first book, The Leaders Workbook (http://TheLeadersWorkbook.com), it started out as a co-operation with a business parter and friend. My friend was a teacher of entrepreneurship, a developer of mentor programs, as well as an author. I looked to him as someone with expertise, knowledge and understanding of how to write books.
We worked out the concept, decided for a structure, and started to write. Me being me, I said the book must be written in English, and that there will be no compromise on quality. Now, my friends English skills were not something to brag about, and after some trial and error, we agreed that he would write in Norwegian, and I would translate to English as soon as I had finished writing my part.
One day we were working together, he showed me a couple of chapters he had written. These chapters were of very high quality - both from a language perspective, and from a content perspective. Right to the point, discussing the very topic. Knowing what he had produced previously, I was very positively surprised, and let him know that I liked the writings very much. I told him that these only need translation, no re-writing, as most of his other work would require.
My friend said thank you and accepted my honest praise.
We kept on working for some time, and when I needed a break, I picked up one of the magazines he had laying in his office. Leaning back, sipping on a cup of tea, I indulged myself to being inspired by the magazine.
In the magazine was an article about one of the topics we were having in the book, so I started to read it. I must have come half way through the article before all my alarm bells sounded. Loud and clear. To have my suspicions verified, I went over to fetch the chapters he had proposed for the book. It took only a few minutes to verify that both the chapters were direct rip-offs of two different articles in the magazine.
Upon confrontation of the fact, he just said «You know Kai, this is how I work».
I was shocked. It did take a while for me to actually admit that I was shocked. This was not the first time we had the same talk - being a teacher in a Norwegian school, you can «copy» parts of publications for use in the teaching. And I had explained, at least in my opinion, loud and clear that in a book, copying is not something we can accept.
Plagiarism, or the act of presenting someone else’s work as your own, is illegal and considered unethical in most cultures. If you have ever been an academic, you know that your thesis work should state references to almost any source that you have been in touch with during your thesis work. The collection of references can be tedious work. The adding of foot notes and quotes can seem like a waste of time.
It is not.
Using someone else’s work, and promote it as your own, is wrong. Most of us will agree on that. Some, though, seem to have the idea that it is wrong only when someone else does it. My friend would be very angry if someone would use even small parts of his book on mentoring without actually buying the book. Yet, he saw nothing wrong in ripping off someone else’s articles, and present them to me as his own.
I have no explanation to this behavior, if you have, please share in the comments below. What I do know, is that I strongly disagree with such methods. It may slow me down in my writing, the fact that I force myself to write each word by myself, and that I try to add references when relevant and when using something from someone else. Of course, I may fail to add all references from time to time. I am human, after all. But if I discover an error, I do my best to fix it.
Like I did with my second book - The Cloud Security Rules (http://thecloudsecurityrules.com) - when we discovered that one of the co-authors had delivered content that was clearly plagiarized, we immediately pulled the book from the market, and started a re-editing process to change the affected materials and add non-plagiarized content instead.
Today, my friend and business partner no longer is a friend of mine, nor a business partner of mine. I decided that the quality of his work was not at the level I wanted, and I did not want to risk that some of the content of the book would have content copied from somewhere else. After all, I plan to sell a million copies, so if there is something stolen in it, someone is bound to find it. Besides, it is just wrong. And illegal.
So, I pulled him off the project, explaining my point of view. I was then totally surprised to discover his anger, his rage towards me. Perhaps I am naïve, perhaps I just think people are better than some turn out to be. But his anger threw me off my feet.
I thought he would calm down, and accept the choice I made. I thought he would be possible to reason with.
A few weeks later, we decide to meet. A meeting where he accuses me of stealing from him. He has the nerve to accuse me of ripping off content he wrote, and use it in my book. I guess I should have seen this coming, and have been prepared for such allegations. I explained to him that non of his content had made the book (I did not tell him that it was because I found it too sloppy, and that I did not want to spend my time rewriting it all), and that I could not take the risk of being associated with (his) plagiarism.
I even invited him to go through the whole book, so he could see with his own eyes that the content was mine, entirely. And I said that if he found anything that he had written in there, I would be happy to add his name as author. Of course he could not find such content. He knew, I knew. And I thought the problem was solved.
Only to discover some months later that the same friend and business partner (past sense by now, mind you!) was talking to my other friends, partners and network, telling them I had ripped off his book. I only learned about this because some of my friends are more honest than others. And they came to me, and asked for my point of view, my story.
I learned something very important in this process. Not all your friends will stay by your side when you need them. Some will actually stab you in the back instead. It may be my selection of friends. Only a handful actually came to me with the story. Most just accepted the allegations at face value, and did not even bother to contact me.
For the past year, I tried to keep the story of my previous friend close, thinking I would try not to ruin his life even if he obviously does his best to make mine a challenge. Then, last week, another co-author of mine was caught cheating, and I felt the whole story come crashing down again. I made a post earlier this week explaining The Roer Group view on plagiarism, and I realized I also had to share this story. You will notice that I have not named my previous friend, knowing that those of you who know me will have no hard time figuring out who he is. When you do, please keep it to yourself. I do not want to see a flame war. I just want to share my side of the story, and my take in plagiarism.
I am no fan of plagiarism. Just like I am no fan of unethical behavior. I do what I do because I believe it is possible to change the world into an even better place. I believe there is hope also for those who are too afraid to confront and investigate. While I wait for them to wake up, I weep. Make no mistake, it does hurt to have your integrity questioned. And even more so when people you consider close, question you.