One of the biggest pitfalls of any organization that wants to achieve remarkability is creating a gap between what you say and what you do. Someone I know referred to this as the “say-do gap.” And the reality is that it is far too easy to create a say-do gap when you begin to make progress towards a brand or organizational transformation. We are going to be about saving the world, rescuing the pandas, or creating connections. True remarkability is about minding the gap and ensuring that what you say is what you do.
Having a say-do gap means you are inauthentic at best, and unethical at worst. Whether it is intentional or not, when you set your mind to becoming remarkable, you need to ensure that everything that you do and say lives up to the bedrock of your remarkability – your purpose.
Your purpose, as I have mentioned before, is the rooting of who you are and why you exist. It is about the contribution you want to have in the world, and the way in which you want to impact it. It is aspirational and inspirational. And it should be the guiding light of everything you do. When you don’t follow the guide of your purpose, you lose track, you become inauthentic and you begin creating the say-do gap. That gap seems harmless at first, but it gets worse over time until you start making decisions that are counter to your purpose. And that is when people notice. After that, you lose credibility and reliability. That is exactly what is happening with Facebook.
The Facebook say-do gap is actually an interesting case study not in being misguided by your original purpose, but by following your original (but disguised) true purpose and straying from the one you publicly put out in the world. Here’s what I mean by that.
If you look at the origins of Facebook and what Zuckerberg currently says is the purpose of Facebook (“to make the world more open and connected”) they really don’t align. Zuckerberg built Facebook to rank how attractive women in his college were. So, let’s be honest – the guy who is one of the leading people at the front lines of our social constructs and debates about information, privacy, connectedness and security is a guy who made a site to rate how hot women are. That should be your first warning sign.
The true purpose of Facebook was for a geeky computer science guy to somehow create the next big thing. It was about recognition and identity. It wasn’t about connecting and opening the world to make it a better place. Zuckerberg has reversed himself into the current lovely sounding purpose because this thing got way bigger than he ever imagined, and he needed something more thoughtful than rating the attractiveness of women. With the support of people around him, he has made it about a kinder and gentler world. The current purpose, however, is about as authentic as a Universal Studios backlot because they have not used it to guide themselves in every decision and action they take. In fact, because no one really believes it, and because it has not been adopted into the DNA of the company, they are finding themselves in so much hot water these days.
The reality is that Facebook has grown, to paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, in ways that were about growth for growth sake and a lot of high fives, but didn’t think through the influence and capability that was being developed – they figured out that they could build, but didn’t ask if they should build it.
I recognize that Facebook does serve a lot of good uses – it connects friends and families, keeps them in touch, reunites people, and serves as a legitimate engagement platform for many organizations, groups and businesses. I support those.
But the organization itself is not living up to its espoused purpose in a way that advances humanity. And for that reason, I believe it is time for a shakeup. It is unlikely that Facebook will look the same in five years. I say this to many people and they look at me like I am insane. Yes – I truly believe we are at a point where either Facebook will be regulated into something different or its leaders will see the light and make it into something different (although I am betting on the former not the latter).
What I think needs to happen is for the Facebook team to head off for a few days and think about what their real purpose should be, and then what the resulting platform should be like – software, policies, revenue model etc. After that they need to embed it in the DNA of the organization and all the people it hires, and all the rules and policies it creates. Only then will there be no say-do gap. Only then can it be remarkable.