The short history of Elon Musk and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is as colorful as they are. You know, the time when SpaceX blew up Facebook's satellite. That time when Musk called Zuck's AI understanding "limited," and so forth. When Musk deleted his own Facebook page and the pages of his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, the internet lit up with the meme-making interpersonal history of these two self-made billionaires.
Where real lives meet how a company makes its living, you discover their core values in action.
Moments like these showcase values in bold relief--like when Delta stood firm on not issuing an NRA discount, despite losing a jet fuel tax credit in its home state. Like when Elon Musk, in his end of quarter Tesla sales push, pulled back car shipments Norway, their top per capita market:
I have just asked our team to slow down deliveries. It is clear that we are exceeding the local logistics capacity due to batch build and delivery. Customer happiness & safety matter more than a few extra cars this quarter.-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 24, 2018
Core values discovery is a critical, yet almost mystical process.
Perhaps the top guru of core values and their effect on performance is Jim Collins. He's famous for books like Good to Great. He's studied thousands of organizations searching for the DNA of greatness. He says the short truth of it is, "worry about what you do as an organization, not what you say." That's why Facebook "talking" about fixing things and Musk "acting--deleting Facebook pages with millions of followers--catches the eye.
You see core values in deeds, not words. Fortunately for us, Zuck and Musk write larger than life.
On the surface, Musk and Zuck would seem to have a lot in common.
The early years for both featured financially comfortable families, solid educations, and of course, coding. Moving on to early entrepreneurship, both titans turned to media companies. Musk built Zip2, a city directory. It started with money from friends and family, and later, $3 million from Mohr Davidow Ventures. When it was acquired by Compaq, Musk got his first start on real fortune, which he parlayed into Paypal. Now the for-profit panoply includes Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, Neuralink, Hyperloop and the occasional hat, flamethrower, or Egyptian Pyramid set.
Zuckerberg also showed his early promise with a directory-style application. One of his first was Facemash, a program that compared pictures of two students and had you vote on which was more attractive. Sharing--and hacking--ideas on campus at Harvard, he built Facebook. Accel then launched the Ivy League directory into the big leagues with a $12 million initial investment.
Your core values lead to your organization's core values.
In the case of Musk, his actions point toward a man obsessed with making the human species interplanetary. While his driver may be fear, he acts with hope. He's investing in changing our energy delivery network, our transportation backbone, satellite communications and, ultimately, space travel. Musk's core values around preserving human civilization are clear in his companies, and they act in accordance. For example, when Hurricane Irma hit Florida, Tesla extended the range of vehicles in the zone to help owners leave.
With Zuckerberg, he may well be motivated by fear as well, but how is he acting? He says, "We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us."
How's the action score to that tune going?
1) In 2009, Zuck says he'd never sell personal information.
2) In 2017, he says fake news/posts didn't happen--that 99% of Facebook content is real.
3) In 2018, he says he's sorry about all the fake content and selling personal information and he will figure out how it happened--and do better.
These are words. The actions are selling personal information, which fuels Facebook right now. Facebook did suspend Cambridge Analytica--last Friday. What it was doing was on the record since at least 2015.
We'd know Facebook actually values privacy if they took actions. Here are a few possibilities:
1) Flipping the platform to pay you a portion of what Facebook is getting for clicking on any content that was paid or or placed. Wouldn't it be great to see the dollars roll into your account? Facebook ended last year with advertising revenue up 49% on revenues of $40 billion.
2) Charging you to participate in Facebook's ad-manipulation-free experience. What would you be willing to pay for a year of warm fuzzies?
3) Confirming with you when an advertiser wants to enroll your data into a campaign, and letting you price participating.
Facebook would change the world if it discovered a value that means more than money.
The question remains, does Zuck have a value like that in him? He and his wife have taken the giving pledge to donate the majority of their wealth--that's a promise on a future action. They've funded companies like Andela that support a developing Africa through Chan Zuckerberg. That's a personal action. They eliminated fees on collecting money for charity on Facebook in 2017--a rounding error in revenue.
When how your company makes a living comes up against how people want to live, that's when your founder's core value flare to life. Actions speak louder than words. Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook has the loudest voice in the world--just whispering.