Tag Archives: Facebook

Is Originality Overrated? The Race for Second Place

In the quest for competitive advantages, we often strive to find the novel idea that will set us apart, thus propelling us to the top of the food chain. While this is a worthy endeavor, is success bequeathed upon innovators? Internality it may feel rewarding to create something new, but is originality actually rewarded?

Last week, Facebook announced a new function, Facebook Camera. This “innovative” feature will allow users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Users will also have the ability to add filters and fun overlays to the pics. If this sounds familiar, it may be because Facebook introduced something similar on Facebook Messenger (Messenger Day), WhatsApp (Status), and Instagram (Stories), not to mention there’s another social networking site, Snapchat, which does exactly what these four Facebook-owned products do. In fact, Mike Murray, a reporter at Quartz, points out that Facebook’s five most recent product announcements are eerily similar to designs from other companies.

  • Facebook Camera = Snapchat
  • “Live location” in Messenger = “Sharing your location” in Apple’s Messages
  • Reactions and Mentions in Messenger = Reactions and @-mentions on Slack
  • Streaming videogames live = Twitch
  • Messenger Day = Snapchat

We can judge Facebook for repackaging past ideas, but considering they have two billion monthly users and generated $9 billion in revenue last quarter, maybe we need to judge ourselves for being so reliant on uniqueness. Just look at the movie industry.

Movie studios have grown resistant to new concepts that require a large investment. Instead, they are opting for sequels, remakes, and reboots that already have brand recognition. Why gamble with unknown actors playing unknown characters in an unknown story when you can develop a live action Beauty and the Beast, a re-imagined Spider-Man, or a continuation of Pitch Perfect (all of which I intend to see).

The plethora of movie sequels clogging the multiplex can make you feel as though your life were stuck on spin cycle. But if the movies don’t change, we do, and that’s a blessing.—Joshua David Stein

It’s a simple sales theory: Selling something original is much more difficult than selling something that’s familiar. Different, in itself, is not a selling point. People need to be able to relate what you are peddling to what they already know; otherwise you are in the defensive position of convincing, not promoting.

As much as we need new ideas, in Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen makes note that the “new and exciting” companies that disrupt their industry are founded by ex-employees of the “traditional” companies. These individuals did not attain success by creating something from scratch; their “originality” emerged from the idea that they could do it better, not brand new. They did the groundwork at the previous company—experiencing the necessary trial and error, thought experiments, and systems planning—and were able to implement in the new environment.

We all want to be innovators, and I’m not suggesting we abandon this endeavor. However, innovation does not require re-invention. There is something to be said for not consistently creating the wheel. It’s why we study best practices and scrutinize over our competition’s lessons learned. Plus, it lowers risk and is cheaper than paying for mistakes. Let others discover the potholes; we can follow their lead, enhance it, and make it our own.

In the end, there may be self-satisfaction in saying we thought of it first, but think of how self-satisfied you can feel by thinking of it second while enjoying the riches of victory? After all, you are trying to lead your team to long-term success, not win a first-place ribbon.

Humblebragging Your Way to the Top?

HumblebragI was in an interview recently when one of the managers asked the dreaded “What’s your biggest weakness” question. I do not like this question. There is no way to answer it in a way that is both satisfactory and honest. It is obviously disingenuous when you say, “I work too hard” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” These humblebrags are prominent in the ways we communicate and, whether or not you realize it, they are damaging your credibility.

The term humblebrag is relatively new. Defined as a “self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud,” this word was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2014. Where people use to all-out boast, humblebragging became an attempt to display humility though a veiled complaint while also mentioning how rich/attractive/creative/successful they are. Check out some of the tweets below that try to appear humble amidst a brag:




The general intent of the humblebrag is to soften the message. However, research shows that it may not be as affective as you were hoping. A Harvard Business School study found that when given the choice between bragging, complaining, and humblebragging, it’s better to (honestly) brag than to (deceptively) humblebrag. According to the findings,

Humblebraggers experience the positive effect from bragging and the positive feeling that they are not actually bragging, while recipients react negatively to both the self-promotion and the attempt to mask it.

To test this idea, participants in the study rated one of three statements on likeability and sincerity:

  1. “I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model.” – a humblebrag
  2. “People mistake me for a model.” – a brag
  3. “I am so bored.” – a complaint

The results showed that the complaints received the highest likability scores and the highest ratings for perceived sincerity, while the humblebrags received the lowest scores in both categories. So, complainers are preferred over braggers and everyone is preferred over humblebraggers. And if you aren’t concerned with being seen as likeable or sincere, the research also found that braggers earn more money than humblebraggers.

The next time something great happens, don’t undermine it with fake humility. Own the win and be proud that you achieved it. If that feels uncomfortable either 1) it’s not something to be proud of, or 2) you are being too humble. Either way, don’t dress it up with what you consider to be a more socially acceptable way to boast. It’s not sincere and everyone knows it, including you. Now if you’ll excuse me, responding to all of my reader’s comments has forced me to take a much needed siesta.

The Graysons on Team-Centric Work Environments

I’ve been in a number of organizations where leaders proudly describe the workplace as a big family. I’m not necessarily talking about a family-owned business where employees really are family; these leaders are using it as a descriptive term for their culture. So I ask you, is a “family vibe” what we should aspire towards? Not if you’re a Grayson.

The ABC network has a primetime soap opera called Revenge. Don’t pretend like you haven’t seen it. Revenge consistently wins it’s competitive timeslot…so I know I’m not alone in watching it. For those of you too timid to admit it, this show follows Emily as she seeks vengeance against the Grayson family. It’s justified; the ethically apathetic Grayons are responsible for the false conviction and death of Emily’s father. In addition, the mother has an affair that lead to a ‘secret’ child, the son is blackmailing the father, you get the gist.

When a leader proclaims to have a family environment, I don’t think they have the Graysons in mind, but I’m not sure it matters. A few years ago, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings published a presentation on the culture of his company. This document has been viewed by almost 10 million people and was touted by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as “the most important document ever to come out of [Silicon] Valley.” Included in this renowned presentation is the overarching philosophy behind Netflix’s culture:

We’re a team, not a family.

As first, this shocked me. I was taught that companies should aspire towards a “family feel”. Then I thought about the Graysons and every aspect of family that a workplace should avoid, including:

Sparing feelings. Families often protect others’ seemingly fragile emotional state by sharing half-truths, telling white lies, and sugarcoating uncomfortable issues. Conversely, a leader must be able to discuss the things others don’t want to hear without always try to make staff feel better.

Maintaining unconditional love. Family members love each other no matter what (even if they don’t necessary like each other). There is nothing unconditional about the manager/employee relationship. It is conditional on work product, reliability, and attitude.

Providing permanence. You don’t select your family; it’s yours forever. The workplace, however, is a choice. Your employees can leave whenever they want. Leaders should convey stability while avoiding a message of entitlement.

The terms “team” and “family” are not synonymous. When leaders talk about the workplace as a family, what they are really describing is camaraderie, respect, and all the other basic building blocks of a team. Netflix uses the verbiage that clearly and honestly describes their culture. Maybe we should, too.