Facebook: A "Meritocracy Of Ideas," Only 1% Done

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By Connie Guglielmo (Writer, Forbes) Didn’t have time to read Facebook’s 150-page prospectus?

Katie Mitic, director of platform and mobile marketing, summed up Facebook’s mission, product philosophy and where the company thinks it stands in the market in a 30-minute presentation about lessons learned by the social-networking giant.

Mitic, who joined Facebook in 2010, was speaking to women entrepreneurs gathered today for the Women 2.0 Pitch Conference & Competition at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, just down the road from Google.

Here are a few excerpts.

On Facebook being a product-culture company:

Product culture companies start with a mission. The mission is all about the focus — it’s the why are we here? What are we doing? It has to be big and ambitious enough to inspire and motivate teams to do things they never even thought were possible, especially in those early years when small teams of engineers and and developer and designers need to outmaneuver companies with far more resources.

It needs to be ambitious. It needs to be clear because the product is the way that product-culture companies make the playing field uneven. So the more tightly focused all those resources can be — the way you can take the smarts and the creativity, everything channeled in one direction — it can make all the difference.

At Facebook, our mission is to be really big and it’s ambitious. It’s to make the world more open and connected. It’s much bigger than all the people that work at Facebook. It’s much bigger than everything we’ve done in our first eight years combined. In fact, we like to say that we’re just one percent finished.

On the importance of making sure the first people hired are the right people:

It’s really important that those first 10 people are setting the culture that you want to set. That’s the beginning of where it all starts. It’s really important that those people are product lovers, that they live and breathe the product.

When you hear or read early accounts of Facebook, they talk about Mark [Zuckerberg] and the team sitting around the table coding the product, eating the product, dreaming the product, talking about the product, thinking about the product. They weren’t doing PowerPoint, they weren’t building Excel models. It was just about the product. and even today, with everything Mark has going on, if you stop him in the hall and want to talk to him about an idea you have about a product, you get his undivided attention.

On moving quickly in the market:

If you have a great mission that’s clear and ambitious and you’re surrounded by product lovers, what’s left? Shipping, shipping and shipping and shipping.

Builders love to ship. It’s the way we get progress. It’s where users tell us what’s working and what’s not. If you walk around Facebook, you’ll see posters everywhere – some of them will say things like ‘Done is better than perfect’ or ‘Move fast and break things.’

It’s about one simple idea, which is build it, get it out there, learn and iterate. Repeat. And just keep doing it and doing it and doing it. Shipping isn’t the end. It’s the beginning. And the listening and learning that can happen after the shipping is the part where the product becomes successful and your users can co-architect an experience with you.

On the difference between product-culture companies and those that aren’t:

The big difference in my experience between companies that are a more product-culture company and those that aren’t is the amount of time spent debating what the user wants. At Facebook, you have those conversations and then it’s like — somebody just build it and ship it. Let’s just see. Let’s just learn. Let’s create three versions of it. It’s a huge meritocracy in terms of ideas. But where the rubber really meets the road is what happens when you get it in the market. It’s a great way to end an argument and saying we’re going to disagree as a team about these things, but we’re just going to go ahead and build it and see what happens.

When all the voices are heard in that process, and then you make choices on what actually happens when you’re in the market, that makes all the difference.

On why waiting to ship products can hurt you:

The challenge to waiting to ship until you have the best product is that most of the time what you think is the best product is actually not the best product. It’s a bunch of these little decisions that build up and culminate into this best product, but when you get it into the market, there are things that are working and things that aren’t working. That’s when the product development really starts in earnest. Now you’re getting the feedback and you can make the changes and you can learn.

Because it’s so much cheaper, I really encourage entrepreneurs to build it and put it out there…

When the product has momentum, when the product has people using it, that’s the sign that there’s magic there. There’s something there that has the potential to be this great company. The product has to exist because people are using it and people want it and are having good experiences. I really encourage ship early, ship often and don’t wait — let go of the idea of a perfect product because products are just changing and evolving all the time. It’s better to get it out there and let those little changes happen as you go. Then you’re going to end up with the best product.

This post was originally posted at Forbes and syndicated with permission.

Photo credit: Women 2.0 on TwitPic. About the guest blogger: Connie Guglielmo is a writer for Forbes. She has spent almost her entire career as a journalist covering tech in and around Silicon Valley, meeting entrepreneurs, executives and engineers, watching companies rise and fall (or in the case of Apple, rise, fall and rise again) and attending confabs and conferences. Before Forbes, she worked at Bloomberg News. Before that, she was Silicon Valley bureau chief for Interactive Week, a contributor to Wired and Upside, and a reporter for MacWeek.