Mark Zuckerberg was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. His parents, Dr. Edward Zuckerberg D.D.S. and his wife Karen, a psychiatrist, live in the same home in Dobbs Ferry they bought in 1981. So why did Mark feel the need to build Facebook in Silicon Valley and not in New York? And what policies can we implement to encourage the next Mark Zuckerberg to build her or his company in New York?
The first thing that we need to understand is that when Mark Zuckerberg was about eleven, his parents hired a computer tutor, a software developer named David Newman, who came to the house once a week to work with Mark. “He was a prodigy,” Newman told The New Yorker writer Jose Antonio Vargasme. “Sometimes it was tough to stay ahead of him.” (Newman lost track of Zuckerberg and was stunned when he learned from the interview that his former pupil had built Facebook.) Soon thereafter, Mark started taking a graduate computer course every Thursday night at nearby Mercy College.
The fact that Zuckerberg’s parents hired a computer tutor and paid for graduate computer course tells us that we need to look beyond the individual. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers which The New York Times printed the first chapter:
[Y]ou couldn’t understand why someone was healthy if all you did was think about their individual choices or actions in isolation. You had to look beyond the individual. You had to understand what culture they were a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town in Italy their family came from. You had to appreciate the idea that community — the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with — has a profound effect on who we are. The value of an outlier was that it forced you to look a little harder and dig little deeper than you normally would to make sense of the world. And if you did, you could learn something from the outlier that could use to help everyone else.
In Outliers, I want to do for our understanding of success what Stewart Wolf did for our understanding of health.
How did America—a country dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—become one of the most unequal countries on the planet? Why do the nation’s leaders now spend so much of their time feeding at the trough and getting ever more for themselves? Why has public-mindedness in our leaders given way in so many instances to limitless greed?
One key factor, argues Martin, is a fundamental shift in nature of the economy. Fifty years ago, “72% of the top 50 U.S. companies by market capitalization still owed their positions to the control and exploitation of natural resources.” But in the latter part of the 20th century, a new kind of organization began to emerge: an organization that prospered not by natural resources but through “the control and exploitation of human talent.”
“By 2013 more than half of the top 50 companies were talent-based, including three of the four biggest: Apple, Microsoft, and Google. (The other one was ExxonMobil.) Only 10 owed their position on the list to the ownership of resources. Over the past 50 years the U.S. economy has shifted from financing the exploitation of natural resources to making the most of human talent.”
This inequality is also addressed in a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin, an economist from MIT. Temin argues that, following decades of growing inequality, America is now left with what is more or less a two-class system: One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy (but still mostly white) lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.
Mitsuru Kawai started working at Toyota Motor Corp. in 1963, in April he was promoted to the post of senior managing officer, the highest position ever held by a blue-collar worker in Toyota’s eight decades.
“When I joined, Toyota had two plants, producing just 300,000 vehicles a year. Last year it made 10 million vehicles. I got to witness that entire evolution,” Kawai said. “I’m one lucky man.”
Mitsuru Kawai, senior managing officer at Toyota Motor Corp., poses in the forging department at one of the automaker’s plants in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. | BLOOMBERG
“When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything.”
Imagine a room filled with 30 people, divided into six teams. Each team gets 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of string, strips of scotch tape, and a single marshmallow. They have 18 minutes to build a free-standing structure that will enable the marshmallow to rest on top. This is marshmallow challenge.
In a seven-minute TED talk, Tom Wujec shares data suggesting that, while the average team produces a tower with a height of about 20 inches, business school students tend to significantly underperform the average. While MBA students do poorly, kindergarteners beat the average:
[B]usiness students are trained to find the single right plan, right? And then they execute on it. And then what happens is, when they put the marshmallow on the top, they run out of time and what happens? It’s a crisis. Sound familiar? Right. What kindergarteners do differently is that they start with the marshmallow, and they build prototypes, successive prototypes, always keeping the marshmallow on top, so they have multiple times to fix when they build prototypes along the way. Designers recognize this type of collaboration as the essence of the iterative process. And with each version, kids get instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t work.