By: Yael Itskowitz  | 

Clash of Cultures: Facebook and Apple

In today’s competitive economic environment, companies need to find new innovative ways to differentiate themselves. How can they be more efficient, profitable, and successful overall? Developing a unique company culture has become an effective corporate strategy. Culture is the beating heart of a company. It’s what drives employees to find meaning and inspiration in their job. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals. Furthermore, the culture directs a company in challenging times and acts as the guiding principles for it to live by. Interestingly, whether management carefully crafts one or not, company culture will develop on its own. In order to be a successful business, it is vital for the company environment to synthesize with the work and mission it hopes to achieve.

Over the years, there have been many success stories and failures due to the intangible element of company culture. Facebook and Apple are two companies that have successfully harnessed this intangible asset in different ways, in order to elevate and differentiate themselves in their respective industries. Facebook is one of the most successful social media platforms, with approximately one employee for every 200,000 users. By fostering growth in their employees, Facebook increases creativity and promotes excellence. Since the beginning, Mark Zuckerberg understood the importance of setting the tone for his company and promoting a culture of being creative, daring, unafraid, and “thinking outside the box.” Facebook’s primary mission is to “make the world more open and connected.” In order to achieve this goal, the environment of the workspace must match the initiative. For example, Facebook offers its employees numerous amenities including an abundance of food, stock-option based compensation, open office space, on-site laundry, a focus on teamwork and open communication, and a competitive atmosphere that fosters personal growth and learning. The employees understand that it is acceptable to make mistakes as long as they learn from them and progress forward. Facebook truly values experimentation as opposed to simply striving for perfection.

Facebook’s culture is starkly different from that of Apple. The culture at Apple has a direct correlation with the determinant factors of its success. At Apple, they strive for perfection and nothing less. This approach to company culture has worked well for Apple, which continues to produce top of the line technology and is at the cutting edge of innovation. The employees hired at Apple are picked from the “cream of the crop” and they are dedicated to working towards perfection. Unlike Facebook, you won’t find signs that say “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” or “Done is better than perfect.” Apple has a track record of taking things that were already invented and trying to “do it better.” The fast-paced environment translates into the high-speed innovation of their products.

In addition, company culture can make or break mergers and acquisitions. For example, AOL and Time Warner decided to merge in 2000 and it became one of the worst mergers of all time due to the clash of each party’s culture. The two distinct organizations could not synthesize the old media and new media culture. The lawyers and investment bankers involved in the merger did their due diligence in assessing the success of combining the two companies theoretically but did not take into account the strikingly different cultures of the two companies.

A Fortune Magazine article wrote “The aggressive and, many said, arrogant AOL people horrified the more staid and corporate Time Warner side. Cooperation and promised synergies failed to materialize as mutual disrespect came to color their relationships.”

The bottom line is that companies today need to understand more than just the formal organizational structure of their business. They must devote time and effort to creating a growth-oriented and productive informal environment that synthesizes accordingly with their mission statement. Not only will this give them a competitive advantage over its competitors, but a good company culture can provide the necessary incentives for each employee to excel in their work. Where there is passion there is power. Companies can use this power to push themselves to new heights and workplace culture is the power source.