Ready, fire, aim: Why Silicon Valley shoots from the hip

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) demonstrates the new 'Home' program during an event at Facebook headquarters during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, Calif.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is creating a nonprofit group of tech leaders who want to reform immigration. Unfortunately, the group sent out an email that Politico says is packed with errors, like giving out the wrong name for the organization, and using language that Facebook says is “poorly-chosen,” that could give a “misimpression of the views and aspirations of the group.” Facebook practically runs the world of social media -- so how does a blunder like this happen?

It’s supposed to go "Ready, aim, fire." But in Silicon Valley, there can be a rush to get out new technology. Luke Williams, who teaches innovation at NYU’s Stern School of Business, says that can cause problems.

“So what they’re really doing is just the firing and the aiming," he says. "And they’re forgetting about the ready part."

Williams says the slogan in the valley has been rearranged to read, "Ready, fire, aim" -- which means some crucial steps are missing.

“But you know it doesn’t replace thinking, vision and strategy. There’s still an absolute need to do that, particularly if you’re talking about doing something completely new.”

Like... a bunch of tech company CEOs staring a nonprofit.

Andrea Matwyshyn, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton, says Silicon Valley’s speed is also possible because legal protection is built into their products. Think about the web services you use. Matwyshyn notes that when you click yes on those agreements it means YOU are responsible for any problems and tech companies can comfortably skip some of the protections that, say, a toymaker, would have in place.

“Such as the legal department saying we need to run three types of checks on this product because we’re concerned about product liability concerns," Matwyshyn says.

Because some tech companies have gotten so good at shielding themselves from liability, hey’ve become sloppy with everyday operations. Louise Kehoe, director of reputation risk at Ogilvy Public Relations, helps train corporations to safeguard leadership from their own errors. She likes to tell her clients stories about other executives who’ve made mistakes.

“Without identifying them of course,” she says.

One corporate executive tweeted about having a great day -- on the last day of the quarter. Which got him a slap on the wrist from the Securities and Exchange commission. So Silicon Valley CEOs -- know that it could have been worse.

Moral of the story: Think before you tweet, and aim before you fire.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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