What I learned at LinkedIn

May 15, 2012

This is an op-ed from Tom McNichol, independent journalist, regular contributor at the Atlantic and author of a recent article on LinkedIn’s growth since our IPO, which can be found here. - Ed.  

Like most LinkedIn users, my only interaction with the site has been through a computer screen. But recently, I had the opportunity to visit LinkedIn’s headquarters in Silicon Valley and take a peek behind the screen, as it were, in order to write a profile of the company for a financial magazine.

Going into it, I imagined LinkedIn would be one of those scrappy tech startups you hear about all the time. And while there’s plenty of playful energy at LinkedIn, I was struck by how grown-up the operation is. LinkedIn is housed in a campus located just down the road from Google, the sort of serious-minded operation you’d expect from a publicly-traded company that happens to be the world’s largest professional online network with more than 160 million members.

There’s a real sense of excitement at LinkedIn that’s palpable as you walk the halls and talk to people. LinkedIn is growing at a rate of about two new members every second, and keeping up with that kind of hyper-growth serves as its own kind of energy drink. At LinkedIn’s offices, there’s a hum of energy that comes from workers who feel as though they’re on a mission. And maybe they’re right – after all, LinkedIn isn’t another tech company hawking the latest shiny gadget that you’ll need to upgrade in a year.

It’s helping members achieve things that are deeply important to them – discovering insights to be better at what they do, finding a new job, attracting more clients or building a stronger professional network. As a LinkedIn user, I’ve found LinkedIn Groups to be an especially good way to expand professional contacts beyond the usual suspects and to generate new ideas.

I was also interested in what Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO, told me about the company’s mantra, which he’s been able to reduce to two words: NEXT PLAY. It’s a concept inspired by Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who shouts that phrase every time the ball changes hands. The idea is to make sure people don’t spend too much time celebrating a successful outcome or lamenting a poor one. Instead, they turn their attention to the next play, the challenge ahead. “Next play” has become a rallying cry for LinkedIn, a reminder that for all of the company’s success, there’s still more work to be done. And more professionals to connect.

Check out Tom's article in the NYSE Magazine here