In late 2016 Fortune announced the conferring of “Businessperson of the Year” title upon Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Related to that, Adam Lashinsky wrote a fascinating article on what we can learn from Zuckerberg’s leadership and management style. A few key ideas jumped out to me. Here is one of them from the article (“How to Lead Like Zuck” Fortune. December 1, 2016, pp. 66–72):
“[Venture capitalist Mike] Vernal believes the key to Zuckerberg’s success is his ability to think for the ages while knowing when to go deep. ‘One of the things that defines Mark is that he takes a very, very long view of things, almost a geological view,’ says Vernal. ‘Most people think day to day or week to week. Mark thinks century to century.’ (Indeed, Zuckerberg’s favorite video game is Civilization, which allows players to consider the vast sweep of history while plotting their next move.)” (p. 70)
Although I understand what Vernal is expressing, it remains potentially an impossibly overwhelming phenomenon. How does one “think for the ages”? How does one think “century to century”? Who among us can even venture to go there?
On the other hand, whenever we automatically make decisions based on bedrock ethical principles, are we not then thinking “for the ages”? I think we are. But that kind of thinking is different than what Vernal cites. Vernal is focusing more on Zuckerberg’s thinking as it specifically relates to a strategy of technology and its confluence with humanity. Vernal is focusing in on what those outcomes are. And it is Zuckerberg’s thoughts about those outcomes that lead to Zuckerberg’s unique success.
So how might this apply to you and me? Can we ever replicate that process? Probably in too many ways to list. Nonetheless, here are a couple applications to consider:
- Big-Picture Thinking. We talk all the time about understanding the big picture. But how often do we really aim to understand it? And since most of us are not Zuckerbergs, we more than likely discount our own abilities to contribute to that big picture. And that is our mistake because we all have the capacity for big-picture thinking if we force ourselves into it. Big-picture thinking is essential to humanity’s success. You don’t have to be a Zuckerberg to think for the ages. How you make decisions today, how you relate to the people you influence, how you prioritize your time, all affect the big picture.
- Legacies Serving The Future. Some day we will all leave something behind. That is called a legacy. We have the exciting privilege of deciding what our legacy will be. We have the moral mandate to build tomorrow’s legacy today. Ultimately, we hope that our legacy will serve humanity. That is the goal. We too can ponder the confluence of technology and humanity. In so doing, we will find multiple opportunities to build tomorrow’s legacies today. That is an investment with a guaranteed return.
And so, it is a given to think day to day and week to week. Indeed it is necessary. Nevertheless, let us never forget how important it is to think century to century. The short view is important and will happen by default. However, we (like Zuckerberg) must never neglect the long view. For that is where the unique successes are found.