Facebook is blocked in China. But that doesn’t mean that Chinese companies can’t learn from it, and today, Sina tech is featuring a post by blogger Wang Huai about what Chinese companies can learn from Facebook. Wang says that he worked at Facebook starting in 2007, when the company had a team of around 150, and left in late 2011, by which point it had grown to more than 3,200. His post is about the cultural lessons he took away from Facebook, not any of the technology.
His full post is long, far too long to translate here. But below I’ve listed his ten main points and my own short interpretation of his point and how it might be useful for startups..
(1) Support your vision, but be flexible and have a solid grasp of the details. Wang’s point here is that your vision is valuable, but there may be different ways to attain it, and you need to be flexible and perceptive enough to see that.
(2) Work only with the best people. This doesn’t mean your team needs to be comprised only of former Presidents or anything, but work with people who are capable, knowledgable, and have a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. And having great people around puts pressure on everyone to up the ante. If a great worker is surrounded by mediocre ones, they may not feel they need to work at their full potential.
(3) Establish high expectations, and have a way to measure them. How is your team doing right now? You need to be able to measure that using some kind of data, not just by gut feeling.
(4) Pay attention to data, but don’t follow it blindly. In keeping with the previous point, having hard data about how your teams and your product is performing can be very valuable. But don’t make the mistake of following data at the risk of missing opportunities that might lie outside it.
(5) Avoid meaningless wastes of time. This one is pretty straightforward. Know what’s really important, and don’t waste time chasing down things that are ultimately tangential to your goals.
(6) Promote friendliness and decrease tension. Here’s a shocker: people who like each other tend to work better together than people who don’t. A little cooperative competitive spirit isn’t a bad thing (Wang mentions this existing between the engineering and support teams at Facebook) but the key word there is cooperative.
(7) Learn to trust others, but don’t stay in the dark. This seems like an especially important point for startups: as your team gets bigger and busier, you will have to delegate important tasks to other people. That’s OK. If you were paying attention earlier in the list, you’ve built a talented team and they can handle important tasks. That said, don’t keep yourself in the dark about something important. Delegate, but follow up.
(8) Feedback should be continuous, not a yearly meeting. Feedback at all levels should be encouraged and promoted consistently, not just at a few special meetings a year. If your team thinks a project is going badly, you need to hear that now, not in December.
(9) You can do better than you imagine. This is also connected to earlier points about fostering a friendly, productive, and talented atmosphere in which people have the support they need to excel and surpass even their own expectations. Your company needs to be a place where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes, because the greatest successes come from the biggest risks.
(10) Don’t overdesign, or optimize too early. Wait until a product has been adopted at a large scale to start adding tons of features or optimizing it too much, because before then, you don’t know how it really works anyway. That said, do be sure it’s scalable before you launch, because if it goes viral, you’re not going to be able to scale it fast enough to keep up.
There you have it. Many of these lessons could have been learned from any company, of course, but for Chinese readers curious about how Wang ties these lessons into specific examples at Facebook, I recommend the original post. It’s definitely not a quick read, but hey, the best reads usually aren’t.