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Facebook embraces ‘The Hacker Way’

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

During Facebook’s meteoric rise from startup to global giant, founder Mark Zuckerberg sought to preserve the company’s innovative culture. He achieved this by embracing what he calls “The Hacker Way.”

From its infancy, Facebook operated as a bootstrapping organization. Zuckerberg and a few colleagues built prototypes quickly, tweaked them constantly and took user feedback seriously.

As the company grew, Zuckerberg kept prodding his team to think and act like hackers. But he defined hackers not as lawbreakers who violate others’ privacy or spread computer viruses. Instead, he emphasized that hacking “means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done.”

While Zuckerberg acknowledges that some hackers lack ethics, he views most of them as diligent contributors who want to do groundbreaking work that enhances people’s lives. He admires their idealism and encourages them to seek continuous improvement and keep innovating.

His commitment to “The Hacker Way” shapes all aspects of Facebook’s business. It spurs employees to take risks and think creatively. It influences who gets promoted. And it drives internal training and management development programs.  

Most im­­por­­tant, the hacker spirit affects the corporate structure. With more than 4,000 employees, Facebook remains a relatively flat organization. Zuckerberg has not hired lots of vice presidents or other midlevel executives to create a hierarchy of authority. He wants most of his employees turning their ideas into products without regard for their job titles.

“Pixels talk,” says Joey Flynn, a Facebook employee. “You can do anything here if you can prove it.”

Rather than look to fill job openings, Zuckerberg hires for talent whenever and wherever he finds it. He recruits hard-charging stars who can thrive in a hacker-driven culture. Then he finds a role for them within the company.

— Adapted from Think Like Zuck, Ekaterina Walter, McGraw-Hill.

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