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A Conversation with Ekaterina Walter, Author, “Think Like Zuck”

A Conversation with Ekaterina Walter, Author, “Think Like Zuck”

Ekaterina Walter is a social innovator at Intel. A recognized business and marketing thought leader , she is a speaker and a regular contributor to Mashable, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and other leading-edge print and online publications. Walter has been featured in Forbes and BusinessReviewUSA and was named among 25 Women Who Rock Social Media in 2012. She sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and is an active member of the Thunderbird Global Council at Thunderbird School of Global Management.  Her new book “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg” officially releases today. Ekaterina Walter

Or at least that’s the way the official bio runs.  After tweeting with her over a period of weeks and then a long conversation via Skype, I can say she’s every bit as knowledgeable as the bio implies.  Ekaterina is also a very vibrant, energetic, and passionate woman who is extremely approachable.  She is the kind of person you will make friends with quickly and keep as a friend for a very long time.

But enough personal insight into the author, what we really want to do is learn more about how to “Think Like Zuck.”

SEJ: Who was the audience you had in mind while you were writing “Think Like Zuck?”

EW: Everybody, really.  As a marketer that sounds sacrilegious, right?  Marketing to everyone is the silliest thing ever, right?  True, but there are tons of great people in companies all over the world that aren’t comfortable taking the risks of entrepreneurship.  They are, however, driving amazing change within these companies, sometimes with no team, no budget, no resources.  When I was writing, I tapped into the years of working with brands and advising start-ups.  Yes, the entrepreneurs are my obvious audience, but also innovators, people that want to create something no matter where they are.  I wrote this for anyone that wants to be a better leader right where they are.

SEJ: There are 5 Key Principals you highlight in the book: Passion, Purpose, People, Product, and Partnerships.  How does Passion provide the fuel to keep innovation alive every day?

EW:  A lot of people react to this as if it’s meaningless fluffy stuff that we have all heard before.  The truth is that yes, we’ve talked a lot about passion and purpose, but we haven’t executed on it.  Each entrepreneur has a vision.  The way we see the world is through our passion.  When opportunities come our way, we are more likely to take advantage of those opportunities that we are passionate about.  That passion shapes purpose.  Mark Zuckerberg is very passionate about connecting the world.  So everything he does with Facebook is to facilitate those real, authentic connections.  Sometimes the steps he takes are pretty radical, and people aren’t quite ready for it.  In many ways he really is ahead of his time.

When it comes to identifying passion, the key is taking the time to be thoughtful.  We tend to fall into our daily routines, and we can get so swallowed up by it that we don’t know who we are any more.  Whether you actively choose to change your life or discover the wonderful serendipity of life, you’re not going to really spot it until you slow down and give it some thought.

SEJ:  The counterpart of Passion is Purpose.  How does a clearly defined Purpose keep us from suffering from the Next-Shiny-Thing Syndrome?

EW:  With all of the information and tools available to us today, we can certainly suffer from what seems to be a form of ADD.  There is something to be said about exploration.  It’s okay to be a little naive and explore new things.  Sometimes the new shiny thing isn’t a fit and sometimes it’s a big hit.  What’s important to maintain is balance.  As long as you know your purpose, balance becomes easier to find.  Purpose also helps us to know how to let go of the good things in order to develop the really great things.  There are lots of businesses that get distracted because they have lost track of their core purpose along the way.

SEJ:  The People around you are so critical to success.  How do you make the distinction between really good talented people and the RIGHT people?

EW: Tony Hsieh, of Zappos says that the bad hiring decisions and the decisions of those that weren’t the right fit ultimately cost the company over $100 million over the years.  It’s not just a money thing, though.  There is also a synergy that happens when the right people are put in a room together.  They may push and pull and argue, but when they all buy into the passion and purpose of what they are doing, they are driven to stay at it until the brand succeeds.  When you hire people that are indifferent to what drives your business, you’re screwed.  They may do a competent job, but there will be no innovation, no motivation, no desire to drive change.  Those people are just there to get paid.

SEJ:  How does Purpose and culture improve the Products companies bring to market?

EW: Facebook has a very interesting culture.  It’s a hacker culture.  When you walk into their headquarters you will see that their offices are unfinished.  There is no finality to where they are or where they are going. Zuckerberg intentionally created this environment of “done is better than perfect.”  They embrace the idea that the journey is only 1% completed.  Everything is done to make sure that people don’t rest on their laurels, that they continue going forward.  That sort of culture encourages hack-a-thons, where engineers get together for the night and invite people from other departments to watch the creative process in action. That’s how timeline came about.  When an organization is really in tune with not only the talents but the individual passions of its people, they can shift team members on to products and projects that tap into that passion and take a new product to even grater levels.  Facebook does an excellent job of marrying the passions of their people with the purpose of the product.  Facebook hires not just for skill but also for attitude.  That is what enables them to channel the skills to create the best product out there.

Ekatrina’s book takes each of these 5 key elements and looks not only at how Mark Zuckerberg implements them at Facebook, but also how these keys have contributed to the success of companies like Zappos and TOMS.  The book is now available for purchase on

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Michelle Stinson Ross Director of Marketing Operations at Apogee Results

Michelle Stinson Ross is a digital marketing industry recognized authority on the outreach power of social media. She has worked ...

A Conversation with Ekaterina Walter, Author, “Think Like Zuck”

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