A few weeks ago I saw Malcolm Gladwell speak at an American Express OPEN event about entrepreneurship and his new book, David & Goliath. As part of the talk he mentioned while entrepreneurs are often viewed as financial risk takers, their greatest skill is often their ability to take social risks. Here’s BusinessWeek describing an article of his from 2010 (the full New Yorker article is behind the subscription wall):
While entrepreneurs want to minimize their financial risk, they’re often more willing to take social risks. During the housing bubble, people thought Paulson was crazy — including the people on the other side of his trades. Sam Walton, another of Gladwell’s examples, borrowed money from his in-laws rather than go to a bank. The willingness to risk reputation and social standing is “just another manifestation of their relentlessly rational pursuit of the sure thing,” he writes.
Anyway, I was reminded of the idea while reading this short piece about some research on the effect of informality on power. Essentially we see non-conformity as a sign of status:
Silvia Bellezza, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Business School, and Francesca Gino and Anat Keinan, two professors there, first studied the link between accomplishment and informality. They found that scholars who dressed down at an academic conference, eschewing blazers for T-shirts, had stronger research records, even controlling for age and gender.
Of course this kind of goes against Gladwell’s point, which suggests that the hardest part is the non-conformity … So not sure what it proves. But it’s interesting.
My problem with this “should Zuckerberg be CEO” story (beyond the fact I think he should) is that there’s only one real reason given and it doesn’t even belong to the author, but instead to Reuters blogger John Abell: “Facebook needs its spiritual leader and chief innovator in a hoodie. But it doesn’t need him as CEO, placating investors in a collared shirt.” Do we really believe Facebook’s stock is sliding because Zuckerberg is spending too much time worrying about investors?
For what it’s worth (and it’s probably not worth much), my feeling on Facebook is that it’s still early and that a) they’re not yet where they need to be with their business (let’s remember the company is only around 10 years old) and b) the market is so caught up with Google and “intent” that they’re still not seeing the bigger opportunity with brand advertising (I wrote a bunch about this right around the IPO). Facebook is still a gamble, but even they’d admit that. They believe (and need to convince the market) that they have the best years ahead of them and that they plan to fully realize the giant (and unprecedented) opportunity staring them in the face.
Pando Daily has a good piece about the great promise, and ultimate disappointment, of widgets. It’s good to go back and reflect on a thing they everyone was going to go one way and ended up going another:
Even Valley sage Marc Andreessen* told BusinessWeek in 2007, “The big widgets have the potential to become the new networks.” And I don’t mean to pick on Andreessen — Quincy Smith and Meg Whitman are both quoted in that article too, as is Vinod Khosla who said, “Widgets are a fundamentally important idea. I believe it has the potential to create big billion-dollar winners.” The smartest people in the Valley had plenty of company on this one.