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Instagram COO Marne Levine: 'Disrupt your career'

Friday, July 31, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Instagram COO Marne Levine delivered the keynote "The Career-Building
Power of Creative Disruption” at the NEW Forum.

Only five years old, Instagram has revolutionized the way people share photos — and retail/cpg leaders can learn from the Instagram model of disruptive innovation, Marne Levine, COO of Instagram, advised during her featured keynote, "The Career-Building Power of Creative Disruption,” during the NEW Forum, July 29 outside Los Angeles.

A free service created in 2010 just after the launch of iPhone 4, Instagram quickly changed the way photos are taken, edited and shared worldwide. In 2010, while the world was quickly becoming mobile, photo sharing sites were still anchored to the desktop. With the creation of Instagram, its founders enabled hundreds of millions of people to use their phones to take, filter and share a photo. Today, a global community shares more than 70 million photos and videos each daily; news outlets use Instagram to capture events as they happen; and brands are using Instagram to deliver well-crafted messages to a receptive audience, including Millennials users who check Instagram more than 10 times each day.

"In business, the need for rapid, frequent innovation can feel exhausting," said Levine, Instagram's first COO. "But companies being founded by 20-year-olds using the Internet are fundamentally changing the world we live in."

Whether considering product innovations or your career, Instagram-like disruption is not a one-time event, but a continuous process, Levine said, and women can learn from Instagram's approach to business.

She advises women to apply these three principals of creative disruption to their careers:

1. Embrace change. "If you don't embrace change, you will miss being a part of something you really care about," Levine said. "It’s a prerequisite for creative disruption for business and careers." Saying "Yes" to a position at Facebook meant embracing "unsettling change," she added. "It meant embracing a technology that would fundamentally change the way we communicate."

2. Be open. "Back in the day, you guarded your private information," Levine said. "Today, I work for a company with open floorplans that is very open about information." On Fridays, for example, Mark Zuckerberg holds an open Q&A with employees – and expresses frustration if people don't ask tough questions. What are the biggest mistakes you made in the last year? Why is the average temperate I the office so cold? Are you anything like the character who represents you in Social Network? No matter the question, he answers it. That takes bravery and openness. It’s a new style of leadership that values transparency and the effect is truly incredible, as people are encouraged to be their authentic selves.

3. Risk-taking. Don't be afraid to put yourself forward. Don’t hold back on stretch goals, Levine said. Facebook and Instagram offices globally are decorated with posters that say things like 'Proceed and be bold,' 'Done is better than perfect' and 'What would you do if you weren't afraid?'

"These posters aren't just slogans," she said. "They are reminders to push us to stretch ourselves to learn new things and tackle new problems. They remind us to not only remain a disruptive business but to take risks on a personal level."

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