The Google Way: A Book Review (And a Chance to Win!)
First off, let me say that even though Google is a “tech” company, you don’t need to understand or even like tech to get a whole lot out of this book. Even with an interest in the industry, I found myself skimming over some of the beginning pages of the book, with its basic explanation of the invention of page ranking and slight references to Boolean operators. Rest assured, that if you do like that sort of thing, The Google Way: How One Company is Revolutionizing Management As We Know It by Bernard Girard will give enough of a taste to feel like you were on the Google journey from the beginning (but if you’re not even sure what Boolean means, you can join the rest of us at page 27.)
Where the book really picks up is with Chapter 2: The Google Economic Model. It immediately gets into Two-Sided Markets and how something that is as “free” as Google can be insanely profitable. But even better than that, this books jumps directly into the management principles that open-minded and daring individuals will find almost comforting. While the industrial and economic climate was ideal for the time Google was born (unlike the time we’re in now), much of what they did right can be carried out in any economy. Here are my favorites:
- Chapter 5: The 20 Percent Rule – What could you do if you took 20 percent of your work day and devoted it to projects beyond the scope of your job description? Would you use it to shop online? Or could you collaborate on projects above and beyond what you could ever do in your basement at home? Google took the idea of this intrinsic motivation and used it to attract self-motivated, bright individuals to its organization. Once there, competition and a desire to be part of something new and important pushed them to create some of the most amazing open source accomplishments ever. And they got paid to do so.
- Chapter 14: Is Google’s Growth Sustainable? This chapter is less about successful management principles, and more about watching Google’s history of problem-solving unfold in detail. My favorite section explains click-fraud and spam, something most any blogger or online business has at least wondered about. While it doesn’t settle on any one solution to a constantly-changing problem in online business, it gives us an inside look at what Google goes through in dealing with it every day. Not an easy place to be, for sure.
The tagline for this book is: “How One Company is Revolutionizing Management As We Know It.” I would argue that it is less about management in the traditional sense (managing employees) and more about managing a quickly-changing online audience. Because it is written from the perspective of Bernard Girard, and not Google, the insights seem balanced. He gives Google credit for evolving with the times, noting where they have been pioneers, and where they have simply learned to adapt existing practices. Techies will appreciate seeing where it all began, and may find that the various footnotes and references make for an excellent list of suggested additional reading. Those of us with more of an interest in the human side can pick enough from the pages to become inspired in our own business.
Want to give it a read? No Starch Press has a few copies of The Google Way to send to lucky Wise Bread readers. To enter the giveaway, post a comment below by June 30th, 2009.
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