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Five Lessons from Facebook’s CIO

Kristin Burnham | July 19, 2011
Facebook CIO Tim Campos shares five lessons he’s learnt about innovation, and stories about his department's successes and failures.

Roam the open, warehouse-style headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto, California, and you’ll see posters on nearly every wall encouraging innovation. One in particular reads, “Move fast and break things” — a principle that Facebook CIO Tim Campos says is core to the success of his 65-person IT team.

“Facebook is all about innovation. To be the best, we need to innovate. And for people to innovate, they need the freedom to make mistakes — it’s part of the learning process,” he says.

Campos, 38, adds that his IT department has benefitted from operating inside such a ground-breaking enterprise. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be right next to this huge source of new ideas and innovation —  Facebook the product — and those new ideas and innovation are bleeding over to how we think and manage IT at this company,” he adds.

Since joining Facebook as its CIO in August 2010, Campos has learned a thing or two about innovation — what works, what doesn’t and how to foster an environment conducive to it.

Here, he shares five lessons he’s learnt about innovation in the workplace from his first-hand experiences with success and failure at Facebook.


Lesson 1: Lead the Charge

Campos says that while the role of IT has changed dramatically in the last 10 years — moving away from keeping the lights on and managing risk — CIOs need to remember that the IT organisation still exists to make the company more productive. It’s the CIO’s job to ensure that’s happening, he says.

“When you have waves of change, it’s important to lead the change and not be a stick in the mud and slow things down. If you don’t lead, users will,” Campos says. “No company wants a CIO who’s behind everyone else. If your company is telling you what to do, you’re not leading.”


Lesson 2: Plan Time to Innovate

One way to lead the charge, Campos says, is to schedule time for employees to innovate. Facebook calls these “hackathons.”

“Hackathons are very much ingrained in our culture — we have one every few weeks. There’s no purpose to them; they’re a complete licence to fail,” he says. “You spend your time doing something that is or isn’t related to the company. The point is to be as creative and innovative as possible. It’s bragging rights for employees, too.”


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