How to Think Like Zuck: a Q&A With Ekaterina Walter

by Mack Collier

As most of you know, I’ve been working on Think Like a Rock Star with McGraw-Hill since last May.  But over the last few months I’ve been closely following the progression of Ekaterina Walter’s book Think Like Zuck, since Ekaterina is not only a good friend, but she’s also with McGraw-Hill.  I wanted to do a Q&A with Ekaterina, since her book goes on sale today and as you can see, it’s already getting rave reviews on Amazon.  Here’s what Ekaterina had to say about the book and why you will enjoy it:

Mack: Think Like Zuck is about the five secrets behind the success of Facebook, including Passion, Purpose, People, Product and Partnerships.  Did you order those 5 Ps in terms of perceived importance, and if you didn’t, which of the 5 Ps would you say is most important for the average business to have in order to be successful?

Ekaterina:  “Think Like Zuck” is an analogy/philosophy of a leader who follows his/her passion, leads with purpose, builds great teams, and strives for continued excellence in his/her product (or services). It is a mentality that drives great leaders to building successful business and the approach they use to doing so.

To me the five are not separable. You see, when you are passionate about, you want to imagine, to create, to build. Passion fuels your purpose. And your purpose defines what product/service you want to offer and what business you want to build. But one can’t build a successful product (or business) alone, one needs a strong team of people who believe in the same vision to help execute on that purpose (and that is where strong partnerships come along as well).

 

Mack: One of the interesting tidbits for me came in the Product chapter where you told the story of how when Facebook rolled out News Feed in 2006, that it was immediately slammed by most users.  Can you talk about what that episode meant to the future of Facebook and also how Facebook employees viewed Zuckerberg as a result?

Ekaterina: A lot of people internally debated with him whether this was the right decision or not. He persisted. And just like with the decision of expanding beyond colleges before that and becoming a platform later, he was right. I think these key decisions solidified everyone’s belief in Mark’s vision.

The reason the NewsFeed wasn’t welcomed right away by users is because of the privacy concerns. Zuckerberg tends to be ahead of his time on his belief in radical transparency. He saw the usage on the network jump exponentially right after the NewsFeed was introduced, so he didn’t respond right away because he watched numbers, not people. It was a mistake to not respond right away with the revised privacy settings, a mistake the company made several times. I don’t think the company ever fully recovered from that. But the reality is that now we cannot imagine our lives without NewsFeed and the ability for others to serve us their news in our stream vs. going to each person’s page individually and checking out what they were up to (that seems so archaic now).

 

Mack: You no doubt spent a ton of time researching Zuckerberg in writing Think Like Zuck.  What’s the one thing you learned about Mark that surprised you the most?

Ekaterina: You mean besides the fact that he is a romantic and that he designed his wife’s ring? I was personally touched to see that side of him…

What I admire about Mark is his dedication to his purpose and long-term vision. He is very strategic in his approach to growing the company and building the product. Everything that he does supports one thing that he is really focused on – connecting people around the globe and making the world more open and transparent. Wall Street, and sometimes the users, tend to see (and criticize) things that are right under their nose, but what we sometimes tend to forget is that a lot of times we  are not only investing in the company’s P&L, but in the vision and strategic acumen of a leader. Jeff Bezos is one example of a leader who, just like Zuck, didn’t make any excuses about his decisions, he was very clear about his path and he persisted no matter the criticism. When he launched reviews on his site, people questioned his own knowledge of business. Now almost every business has reviews on their sites. And with all of the ups and downs Amazon stock continues to steadily climb.

 

Mack: Finally, of the 5 Ps in your book, what’s the 1 P that Zuckerberg gets right, that you think most leaders and CEOs miss?

Ekaterina: Culture. He built a solid culture that can sustain the growth of the business and support constant innovation. The way of the hack is very deeply ingrained inside the company. Company’s slogans are: “done is better than perfect” and “this journey is only 1% finished” and that is because Facebook employees never rest on their laurels, they stay focused and keep shipping.

There are a lot of other elements of the culture that I talk about in my book that help create this solid foundation of success. And the fact is: not every company can establish a culture that supports the mission of a business in such an effective way.  But that always was and will always remain a critical ingredient of long-term success.

 

Thanks to Ekaterina for giving us some insights into the book Think Like Zuck.  And for full disclaimer, Ekaterina was nice enough to send me a review copy of the book, and I really enjoyed it.  It is packed with business case studies and even has a few human interest stories splashed in.  It made the book much more enjoyable to me, and a quicker read.  Check it out, I think you will enjoy it even if you aren’t a Facebook fan boy, and I’m definitely not. But I do appreciate Zuckerberg a bit more as an entrepreneur  and a person, after reading Ekaterina’s book!

PS: Think Like Zuck goes on sale TODAY on Amazon, you can buy it here.

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