The world watched, first with anticipation and now with horror, as one of the most celebrated accidental innovations, Facebook, launched its IPO. Going in with high hopes, many investors felt the success of this IPO would set in stone the viability of social media as a bona fide business venture and not just a passing fad. Unfortunately, with Facebook’s stock falling nearly daily in the last two weeks, many are wondering if this may be the end of an era.
It comes as no surprise to me that this social media monster is having its share of troubles. The problem, I believe, lies in the difference between people who can come up with ideas and true innovative leaders. Though Zuckerberg may have stumbled upon an incredibly ingenious concept, he lacks the visionary leadership ability game changers like Steve Jobs so naturally embodied.
This is not to say Zuckerberg lacks genius, or even ability to innovate. However, Facebook’s birth story does lack the spark of innovative vision Apple boasts. As a result, Facebook is struggling to establish itself as a viable business endeavor.
So what, you may ask, is the difference between success and failure in innovation? I believe the difference lies in purpose. Unlike the majority of innovations that have come about and changed the way our world operates, Facebook has yet to prove itself to be a product that makes a difference.
Undoubtedly, life has changed due to the introduction of social networking; but has Facebook changed or bettered the lives of millions worldwide? I’m not so sure.
Let’s face it, the purpose of Facebook was to allow an elite group of Ivy League coeds to communicate with others in the “in crowd.”
Flattered by its overwhelming popularity, Zuckerberg began to share it with other colleges and universities, high schools, and eventually the world. However, the focus of this grand experiment was not to create a truly great, world-changing invention. Its sole purpose was to socialize with one’s peers. It’s no wonder that the population latching most heavily to this social experiment has been that in the under-13 crowd, a population most concerned with what its peers think and say. What has been the result of the wild popularity of Facebook as a social medium? Just that – wild popularity and nothing more.
What today’s world needs more than ever before is innovators with vision and a desire to change the world. It needs people unafraid to be “outliers” in the scheme of life; visionaries who are more concerned with solving problems than achieving mad popularity.
Up to this point, Facebook has not provided any solutions to world problems other than how to spend a few idle moments. It is for this reason businesses have struggled to find a use for Facebook in their ventures. It is why Facebook’s stock is struggling today.
For Facebook to survive, it must prove itself useful in making the world a better place to live and work. This is the only way it will be able to sell itself as a viable business venture. Facebook’s purpose will have to change, and change quickly.
Though Apple products such as the iPod and iPhone lend themselves to plenty of enjoyment, their purpose is greater than just mindless entertainment. They change the way people live and work.
Steve Jobs had a genius for predicting and addressing needs people didn’t even know they had. As a result of his forward thinking, Apple products have become successful as luxury and business conveniences. Facebook must also find some synergy between its founding purpose and one that will benefit people’s lives and work to stay a float.