While Facebook wasn’t one of the story lines Isaacson featured, it fits his thesis, as Zuckerberg tells it. In a Q&A Wednesday in Bogota Zuckerberg was asked, “What was the exact moment where you got the inspiration to create Facebook?” He smiled, paused for a moment and said “I don’t think that’s how the world works.” Then he explained more:
It drives me a bit crazy when people say it’s like “I made Facebook.” Yeah, me and thousands of other people and then millions of people using our product built the community. So I don’t know, I think it’s very simplistic to say that I was just sitting around one day and I came up with this idea and then we had a community of a billion people, it’s like “wow that was easy, I guess I can go home now.”
As Isaacson puts: “Only in storybooks do inventions come like a thunderbolt, or a light bulb popping out of the head of a lone individual in a basement or garret or garage.”
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg stressed how ideas and breakthroughs of all stripes develop slowly, and with the help of collaborators:
Ideas typically do not just come to you. They happen because you’ve been talking about something or thinking about something and talking to a lot of people about it for a long period of time. It’s a lot of different dots that you connect to make it so that you finally realize that you can potentially do something and then you start work on it and you realize that maybe it actually will work.
Tim Berners-Lee, who worked with Robert Cailliau to hatch the World Wide Web, has a similar take on how ideas emerge.
“Half-formed ideas, they float around. They come from different places, and the mind has got this wonderful way of just shoveling them around until one day they fit,” he says in Isaacson’s book.
There are plenty of other examples in The Innovators of teamwork sharpening individual ideas. American Online emerged from the combination of three distinct personalities with different strengths, Steve Case, William von Meister and Jim Kimsey. Bill Gates and Paul Allen pulled all-nighters to create the operating system. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak needed each other to launch the Macintosh computer. Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf teamed up to develop TCP/IP, which is jargon to most people, but made the Internet possible.
If Zuckerberg is looking for his next selection for his book club, The Innovators would seem like a perfect pick.