What Startups Can Learn From Facebook’s Reckless ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ Mantra
What even smart companies get wrong about core values
In his new book Facebook: The Inside Story, journalist Steven Levy recounts a time in 2009 when employees wanted to articulate what Facebook stood for. How did they describe it to potential hires, or for that matter to mom and dad? HR gathered employees in small groups to hash out the best descriptors. Out of this came four key values they presented to Mark Zuckerberg: focus on impact; be bold; move fast and break things; be open. He liked those as internal guidelines, but asked for a fifth: build social value, meant to capture Facebook’s impact on the world at large.
A decade later, most people only remember “move fast and break things” (a value the company later moved to abandon) — and at this point, as more of a damning criticism of Facebook. For that company, revisiting its old core values will now require a much larger overhaul — not just around obtaining a new slogan, but about all the ways it must apply newly stated values in every product, every program, every employee message and action — with a skeptical world watching its every move.
You stand for teamwork? Respect? Accountability? I mean — who doesn’t?
Developing your company values and mission statement can feel like a Dilbertian exercise: a bunch of earnest people in a too-long meeting whiteboarding and ranking inspirational words and phrases. It’s tough to come up with a handful of statements we really believe at our core — that aren’t just buzzwords — that everyone at the company can feel good about and live by, and most importantly, stand behind on bad days. As we’ve seen with Facebook, even some of the smartest companies have made mistakes when it comes to defining their values.
Here’s how to avoid falling into those traps.
A noun isn’t a value. Neither is a feel-good phrase.
Touting “transparency” or “trust” as core beliefs just doesn’t cut it (sorry, Salesforce). Airbnb’s “Embrace the adventure” also comes to mind. These approaches risk coming across as trite or disingenuous. Just how…