Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman: Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales
What’s more important than product-market fit? Product-VALUE fit. If you choose the right values to drive product development, you’ll draw the people, resources and speed you need. It’s true for for-profits and for nonprofits. And Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales knows this well. Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has famously stuck to its values of openness, neutrality, and remaining not-for-profit.
But he arrived at those precise values through trial and error — on an earlier free encyclopedia project that stalled. Once he found the right product-value fit, Wikipedia rapidly scaled from a niche side project to one of the most valued treasures on the internet.
Core values are essential in guiding product development and can make a product successful even when faced with obstacles. Choose values wisely, as they can guide actions, inform decisions, and shape a product’s brand.
Alignment of values
Companies should prioritize values that are flexible enough to manage exceptional cases while remaining true to their vision, just like Wikipedia’s commitment to openness and neutrality.
Businesses should align their values and models for long-term success.
By creating a product that aligns with users’ values and inspires them to contribute positively, businesses can foster a passionate community that is invested in the success and growth of the product.
The importance of openness and neutrality in the success of wikipedia.
The success of Wikipedia can be attributed to its values of extreme openness and neutrality. Even today, almost all pages can be edited by anyone without prior signing up, which showcases their commitment to openness. However, this value is supplemented with flexibility to account for outlying cases such as vandalism and locking articles when necessary. Alongside the value of openness, their vision of neutrality has been crucial to their success.
By presenting all the facts without any agenda, they have created an online space where people can form their own opinions. These values have driven the success of Wikipedia, and it is imperative that businesses incorporate values that are flexible enough to account for exceptions while being true to their vision.
So most pages in Wikipedia, well over 99%, even to this day, if you’re not logged in, you’ve never been to Wikipedia before you get there, there’s a little button that says edit. You click that, you make a change, you hit save, it goes live immediately, which is completely insane, but completely true and it actually works for us.