Charlie Rose Talks to LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn’s co-founder and CEO discusses the changing nature of careers and the growth potential of social media

“A lot more of the world is still coming online than is already there. So there’s a massive amount of growth possible”
Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

You’ve been thinking about changes in the workplace—in fact, you’ve got a new book out on the subject called The Alliance. What’s different?
Most people haven’t looked square in the face the notion that lifetime employment is gone. That’s not the way the world works anymore. But implicitly underlying HR programs, underlying recruiting, is still this presumption of a lifetime employment program, and that leads to a dishonest conversation. Both the employee and the company know there’s a real chance the employee is going to go work somewhere else, and that omission leads to distrust. Our head of engineering and operations at LinkedIn actually does something that didn’t occur to me but now I’ve started to do. In his very first interview with an employee coming to LinkedIn, he asks them what job they want after LinkedIn.

American entrepreneurship is alive and well, but can it be strengthened?
I’ve been thinking about getting more involved in the civic dimensions of entrepreneurship, because what happens—with big companies or government—is that they tend to harden the system against challengers. The incumbents tend to make it more difficult for challengers to come in. And yet the nature of entrepreneurship is the people who challenge the system, the people who say, “I’ve got a new product, a new service, a new idea.”

So where has that thinking led you?
Not surprisingly, to you and other folks who know me, to the magic of the Silicon Valley network, right? You need a network by which you can quickly find other people who go, “I know an expert in this. I know a customer for this. I know employees. I know financing.” A startup has a set of resources that all need to be there in order to make it successful. The speed at which you can assemble that is the strength of the network. How can we, as a society, strengthen networks in various areas? Is there something we can do in Detroit? Is there something we can do in New Orleans to create a much more robust network, to enable entrepreneurship, to create economic prosperity and jobs?

Is social media experiencing growing pains? And how much growth still lies ahead, with Facebook now past a billion users?
They have 1.3 billion, I think. So there’s a bunch of technological changes. For example, a lot of the globe is still coming onto the Internet with the expansion of smartphones all over the world. That gives you a natural rising tide for all of [the social media networks]. I think there are growing pains, but I think that a lot more of the world is still coming online than is already there. So there’s a massive amount of growth possible.

What kind of progress is there at LinkedIn? Are people making good use of the service in your opinion?
If you ask most people, “Do you understand what it is to live and work in a networked world?” they’ll say, “Sure, I have a cell phone.” Actually, in a networked world, there are millions of people who are searching, and what are you doing to be found?

Being found on social media is the point?
People say, “I’m overloaded. I don’t want new connections.” Well, you want new signal, not new noise. So you have to have the right filtering mechanism. But being found is critical. For example, my LinkedIn profile is primarily targeted at people who want to come to work at LinkedIn and people who want investment. And that’s how I did the Airbnb investment. They came and found me. They knew we would be receptive. Obviously crazy people can find you, too. And this is kind of how LinkedIn is designed: If people are referred to you by someone you already know and trust, that’s a really good filter.

You’ve been a believer in Bitcoin. What does the future hold there?
It’s a very high beta bet. People talk about Bitcoin all the time, and they don’t realize the most interesting question: Is this the first or last cryptocurrency? If it’s the last one, Bitcoin is certainly solid. It’ll be fine with government. The only interesting question is, will there be a new one that’s much better?

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