Reinventing How I Use Facebook
In my last semester of business school, I took a class called Transformational Leadership, with Professor Bob Quinn. As part of the class, we had to practice applying the principles of being a transformational leader weekly, to a situation in our personal or professional lives. One week, I decided to reinvent how I interacted on facebook.
SKILLS AND INSIGHTS GAINED
Small experiments work – I wanted to create more positive and fulfilling interactions on facebook, so I would feel less drained and narcissistic every time I scrolled through the app. I decided to post a personal, authentic question every day for a week. In the first week, I asked questions like “What do you love most about where you live?” and “What’s something you spend more time doing than the average person?”. After a week, the amount of people who engaged with my questions was astounding – I had close two two dozen thoughtful comments every day. It took me about 3 minutes and no money to launch this experiment, Putting something into the field for others to react to teaches you more than you can ever expect.
Pivot often – I changed my approach in several ways for the next few weeks after my initial experiment. I asked different types of question and provided encouragement in different ways. I perfected my posts’ timing and how many comments I insisted on having before I shared my own answer to the question. I sussed out which words tended to generate the best contagion, given facebook’s algorithms. The lesson I learned was simple: when you have a good idea, keep changing it until it’s a great idea. Then, keep working on it and never treat it as finished. The more you pivot, the more you learn and the better your results get.
Get out of simplicity’s way– I had a strong inclination to immediately build on the idea once I saw that people were enjoying my daily practice of posting a facebook question. I resisted the urge to make things complicated and it paid off. I tried a complex question one day and it stunk. Simplicity helps people understand things that are new. Sometimes, it’s just as important to get your own creativity and aspiration to build new things so that people can simply enjoy the innovation you’ve developed.
IMPACT AND LESSONS LEARNED
For most of my life, I’ve been taught that bigger and newer is better than smaller and older. That’s what consultants (and business students) are trained to do. I found value in quantity and complexity. Bigger was better, and that was that.
However, that’s not always how people work. Sometimes, people think differently. They value elegance and simplicity rather than features and novelty. Innovation and ingenuity don’t have to manifest in super-sized solutions, they can be small moves smartly made.
I’ve learned about the power of learning from simple experiments and I now take the “what if?” approach to much more of my work. Simply holding that radically different perspective – that values simplicity and experimentation – has accelerated my learning, broadened my thinking, and improved my ability to find creative solutions to new problems.