A very simple management mistake News Corp. made. News Corp tried to guide MySpace, to add planning, and to use “professional management” to determine the business’s future. That was fatally flawed when competing with Facebook which was managed in White Space, lettting the marketplace decide where the business should go.
But, the brilliance of Mark Zuckerberg was his willingness to allow Facebook to go wherever the market wanted it. Farmville and other social games – why not? Different ways to find potential friends – go for it. The founders kept pushing the technology to do anything users wanted. If you have an idea for networking on something, Facebook pushed its tech folks to make it happen. And they kept listening. And looking within the comments for what would be the next application – the next promotion – the next revision that would lead to more uses, more users and more growth.
And that’s the nature of White Space management. No rules. Not really any plans. No forecasting markets. Or foretelling uses. No trying to be smarter than the users to determine what they shouldn’t do. Not prejudging ideas so as to limit capability and focus the business toward a projected conclusion. To the contrary, it was about adding, adding, adding and doing whatever would allow the marketplace to flourish. Permission to do whatever it takes to keep growing. And resource it as best you can – without prejudice as to what might work well, or even best. Keep after all of it. What doesn’t work stop resourcing, what does work do more.
Contrarily, at NewsCorp the leaders of MySpace had a plan. NewsCorp isn’t run by college kids lacking business sense. Leaders create Powerpoint decks describing where the business will head, where they will invest, how they will earn a positive ROI with projections of what will work – and why – and then plans to make it happen. They developed the plan, and then worked the plan. Plan and execute. The professional managers at News Corp looked into the future, decided what to do, and did it. They didn’t leave direction up to market feedback and crafty techies – they ran MySpace like a professional business.
And how’d that work out for them?
Unfortunately, MySpace demonstrates a big fallacy of modern management. The belief that smart MBAs, with industry knowledge, will perform better. That “good management” means you predict, you forecast, you plan, and then you go execute the plan. Instead of reacting to market shifts, fast, allowing mistakes to happen while learning what works, professional managers should be able to predict and perform without making mistakes. That once the bright folks who create the strategy set a direction, its all about executing the plan. That execution will lead to success. If you stumble, you need to focus harder on execution. Probably get a new President who understands execution – in a more brutal way.
When managing innovation, including operating in high growth markets, nothing works better than White Space. Giving dedicated people permission to do whatever it takes, and resources, then holding their feet to the fire to demonstrate performance. Letting dedicated people learn from their successes, and failures, and move fast to keep the business in the fast moving water. There is no manager, leader or management team that can predict, plan and execute as well as a team that has its ears close to the market, and the flexibility to react quickly, willing to make mistakes (and learn from them even faster) without bias for a predetermined plan.
Resource: How Facebook Beat MySpace