The Social Network, Innovation Project, and You

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The innovation project. Another daunting English assignment rearing its unclear and blurred face into my education. But what is the innovation project? Hell, what is innovation? To answer this question, I did what I always do when faced with questions like these. I turned to the movies.

The 2010 film The Social Network is a fantastic example of modern innovation in cinema. Although most people might see the movie as a tale of innovation caused by a lone-wolf genius with a brilliant idea, I see it as something else. In my opinion, the move is about how innovation is not just about coming up with an idea, but rather about how an idea must be refined into a product, and about how, at least in the modern age, it’s no longer a manageable process without a team. Innovation isn’t about one man with one great idea, it’s about determination, strategy, hard work, and a strong leader who can instill these values in a good team.

The idea that Zuckerberg is more than some sort of lone-wolf Einstein is apparent from the beginning of the movie. This can be seen in the prelude to his social network, which was in essence, a “Hot or Not” for Harvard students. A crucial part of the project was an algorithm provided by one of his friends. So it’s obvious that even from the start, Zuckerburg was drawing from prior inventions and ideas as well as relying on the work of others.

Einstein didn’t care about appearance either.

Throughout the developmental process of Facebook, Zuckerburg is submerged by an ever expanding team of programmers. In several scenes, you can see these programmers toiling away in the background. It’s important to note how hard these programmers are working away at their computers, usually for more than one day each time. In essence, these programmers are an extension of their leader. They represent Zuckerburg’s unyielding work habit and his obsessive dedication to details. These ideals are embedded  in Zuckerburg and his team and are an important part of what makes Facebook so successful.

Drinking competitions produce hard workers.

Another important lesson from Social Network was the inception of the idea itself. Originally, Zuckerburg took the idea from a trio of Harvard students who wanted his help in building their “Harvard dating site”.  The movie makes the trio seem unintelligent and clownish, essentially diminishing the value of the idea as if it was plainly obvious. This shows that the concept of Facebook is bigger than anyone thought, and that the innovation of an idea should be judged not by the idea itself, but by how much success it brings. Both the friend’s algorithm and the trio illustrate two key lessons in Social Network, that innovation stems from the ideas of others and that sometimes people have overlapping ideas.

The movie is also filled with other lessons as well, for example, not only is Zuckerburg unmotivated by the incentive of money, it appears that his complete lack of motivation played a key part in his success. Also, the movie raises the question if intellectual property is relevant to such widespread and connective ideas such as Facebook. In conclusion, the movie contains many strong lessons in regards to innovation. On a side note, I wish the film would have provided some insight into the competition among social networks and their views of one another.

Social Network competition
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