Review: Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Think Like Zuck

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter is from McGraw Hill, 2013. The book was a surprise in many ways. The biggest reason was the way Ekaterina Walter explained all the things about Facebook that felt annoying over the years and painted them as part of Mark Zuckerberg’s brilliance. The book is about business, not technology, and talks about the vision, passion and principles that have driven Facebook’s growth. The lessons Walter learned from watching Zuckerberg she then discussed in relation to other businesses such as Zappos, Amazon, TOMS, Apple, Threadless, and College Humor.

Walter discusses the “Five P’s” of Zuckerberg’s business style and Facebook’s day to day operations. She organizes the book around these concepts and her examples explain them. They are:

  • Passion: Zuckerberg’s passion is to connect people through technology in a way that is authentic and transparent.
  • Purpose: Facebook’s purpose is “to make the world more open and connected.”
  • People: Zuck has found great people to execute his vision.
  • Product: You have to build something great.
  • Partnerships: No one person can make a dream into a reality.

We’ve seen the results of Zuck’s passion for using the Internet to connect people around the world – using real names. There are a billion people using Facebook, creating a worldwide web of relationships and conversations that gives new meaning to the term worldwide web. The web of connection facilitated by Facebook has created global change. That change is a revolution started by a college dropout who had a vision for how to connect people and executed it from his dorm room when he was 19 years old. It’s remarkable that Zuckerberg stuck to his vision through all the growth, through all the offers to sell, and through all the criticism from outside his burgeoning company.

Facebook’s purpose is “to make the world more open and connected.” To make that happen, the culture within Facebook encourages risk, hacking, and moving fast with boldness. This is all part of the dedication to give Facebook users more ways to connect with friends. Many of the things I’ve written about in complaining tones in the past about Facebook are explained by the the Facebook working culture: the constant changes, the frequent additions to the interface, e.g., the Wall, the News Feed, the Timeline. Much as I may have whined about each new change, I have to admit that they quickly became the thing about Facebook that I most depended on to stay connected.

Mark Zuckerberg is first to give credit to the team that builds Facebook. The people who work there have to believe in the value and importance of Zuck’s dream. They must be dedicated to the execution of that dream. People are hired for attitude rather than skills.

Facebook places people and their connections at the center of its product. Facebook is a technology company but it isn’t about technology or content – it’s about people and their social needs. The passion, the purpose, and the people combine into a product that became part of people’s everyday lives.

The partnership with Sheryl Sandberg explains much about Facebook’s success. Walter talked about how Sheryl Sandberg was a perfect business person to team with Zuckerberg. Walter calls them the Visionary and the Builder or the dream architect and the value architect. Walter pointed to teams at other companies with equally effective but differing skill sets. Examples from Warner Bros., Disney, Hewlett Packard and other businesses are included in the discussion.

I learned a great deal about Facebook from this book. I learned a lot about Mark Zuckerberg and why he’s a phenomenal success. More importantly, I learned about how business culture and attitude can make or break a company. You can read the book to learn about Zuckerberg in the same way that you read the biography of Steve Jobs, but I suggest you read the book to absorb the lessons about “the Five P’s” and apply them to your own business efforts.

Summary: Business owners, tech innovators and entrepreneurs of all stripes can learn valuable principles from this book.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg (rating: 5 stars).

Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

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