13 December 2009

Lessons From The Google Rocket


Understanding the meteoric rise of Google can be distilled to the phrase
It's the engineers, stupid.
Cribbed from It's the economy, stupid - an American political phrase coined during Bill Clinton's successful presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush.

Imagine how different the world would be if Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had spent the last decade or so on the Galapagos Islands measuring the beaks of Darwin's finches.

In his bestselling book, Googled: The End of the World As We Know It, journalist Ken Auletta weaves a compelling profile of Google and it's impact on contemporary society.

Don't be evil is the informal Google slogan originally suggested by Paul Buchheit (former lead developer for Gmail). Pie-in-the-sky bromides like don't be evil are painless to adopt when the underlying organization is buoyed by boatloads of cash. Yet the Google culture has cultivated and proven the impossible is possible...
  • it is possible for a large organization not to kill ideas and productivity;
  • it is possible for employees to be part of a brain-stimulating community rather than trudge daily to a 9-5 job; and
  • it is possible that giving 20% time for smart people to pursue their interests translates into profit.
What is the Google ethos and what can we learn from it? Google's ethos is this
  • Have the audacity to be different
  • Maintain a healthy distrust for suits
  • Data are strong indicators that trump notions and superstition
  • Release early and learn
Lessons

The key to the Google Rocket is
Things get invented by engineers, not hucksters or charlatans.
Since it's the engineers, stupid, compensate accordingly -- or fall off the cliff like traditional advertising.

Caveats

Google is successful by most measures monetary or cultural. Google challenges traditional media, traditional advertising, and traditional operating systems (see Instant Boot Bliss), to name a trio of areas over which its tentacles visibly extend.

Yet now that Google has become an informational and infrastructural behemoth, the salient question for Google's future (and ours) becomes
Is don't be evil still do-able?