In my last post, I report­ed on com­ments made in an inter­view by two senior Face­book lead­ers (one the Chief Oper­at­ing Offi­cer, the oth­er a board mem­ber) regard­ing the com­pa­ny’s crit­i­cal need to mon­e­tise its one-bil­lion-mem­ber base. I not­ed that Face­book (at least, as reflect­ed by its plung­ing stock price) could not be cer­tain of future suc­cess. It would have to earn it.

Marc Andreessen, the board mem­ber, said that Face­book was com­mit­ted to becom­ing, through mobile apps, a uni­ver­sal pres­ence: “We’re going to a lev­el of ubiq­ui­ty we’ve nev­er had before. These are going to be the con­trol devices for all our oth­er devices, like TVs. There’s also a new gen­er­a­tion of wear­able com­put­ing devices, like Jaw­bone and Google Glass­es. The smart­phone is the hub for those devices.” Sheryl Sand­berg, the COO, was equal­ly con­fi­dent: “We want to make sure our plans are big, bold, and risk-tak­ing enough that when they hit, they’re big enough to real­ly make a big difference.”

Great words. Yet, what encour­aged me the most about this inter­change with key Face­book play­ers was Sand­berg’s acknowl­edge­ment that the race for her com­pa­ny is not about being the first to bring some daz­zling hard­ware or soft­ware to mar­ket. Sand­berg con­cedes, “Google was­n’t first to search. We weren’t first to social.” So, what, asks inter­view­er Char­lie Rose, “is the win­ning strat­e­gy?” Sand­berg replies in three words: “exe­cu­tion and innovation”.

I have men­tioned before that two crit­i­cal dimen­sions of suc­cess­ful inno­va­tion are C‑suite engage­ment and inte­gra­tion with the strate­gic agen­da. For me the dis­cus­sion of Sand­berg and Andreessen demon­strate that both ele­ments are alive and well at Face­book, and that sug­gests to me a promis­ing future. They are delib­er­ate­ly try­ing to fore­sense the future of mobile adver­tis­ing in a way that posi­tions Face­book to ben­e­fit from the emerg­ing future. One of the fac­tors they are look­ing into is how mobile adver­tis­ing has the poten­tial to change the rela­tion­ship with the cus­tomer, a non-triv­ial pos­si­bil­i­ty to say the least. I am also encour­aged to read that this sense of a need­ed direc­tion for the com­pa­ny is not a top-down matter.

Ingrid Lun­den just report­ed that “Facebook’s First Mobile Adver­tis­ing Inter­face Was Built By An Intern”. She notes that “an intern by the name of Peter Cot­tle was respon­si­ble for Facebook’s first prod­uct that let peo­ple buy mobile ad space, via a mobile device” and says some­thing that I have to agree with. “What stands out as pret­ty remark­able is that Face­book would give what seems like a pret­ty big project — mobile ads, after all, are one of Face­book’s big big bets for how it will be mak­ing mon­ey in the future — to a pret­ty junior per­son.” To me, the sto­ry strong­ly implies that a lot of peo­ple, at all lev­els of Face­book, are real­is­ing the com­pa­ny’s strate­gic need and lever­ag­ing their tal­ent to fill that need.

Sand­berg’s call for suf­fi­cient degrees of bold­ness and the search for “mak­ing a dif­fer­ence” is a tell­tale sign of their strate­gic intent, which makes it clear they are about more than just milk­ing their cur­rent user base with incre­men­tal prod­uct-focussed inno­va­tions. They are, indeed, think­ing beyond Face­book as we know it. It’s great lead­er­ship talk. Now we must watch close­ly to see if Face­book’s legions of mem­bers, its man­age­ment and work­force, and investors will unite to make Face­book an irre­versible Inter­net player.

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