How Google Works
I read the book “How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt and Jonathon Rosenberg. It is a great read and has some great learning. Following is what I have gleaned from the book with my insights as well.
We have all heard of the term “knowledge worker” coined by Peter Drucker but the authors argue that this term was for an earlier era. They have coined the term smart creative now. Smart creatives are curious creative, never satisfied with the status quo, not afraid to fail, have deep technical knowledge and more importantly can do multiple things. They are not averse to taking risks.
Culture is the most important aspect of an organization. The authors also argue that a candidate should not only look at the pay but look at the organizations culture before deciding on the job. One example at Google is the rule of seven the authors mention in which managers were allowed a maximum of seven direct reports. They advise organizations to determine which people are having the biggest impact and organize around them. The adage is to always hire people smarter than you.
There is a section on work life balance. The whole concept of work life balance is a myth. We are all connected 24*7 so compartmentalizing life into work and play doesn’t work any longer. For example at Google folks are allowed to bring their family and kids to the campus during summer which allows them to work and at the same time to have fun. The last point is crucial if we think fun is everything apart from work we are going to be disappointed most of the time. The authors also argue that being indispensable is not the goal so take vacations, get recharged and let someone else take your place for some time. Again working to the point of exhaustion is not the answer for success in the 21st century. The answer lies in producing great work in bursts (Tony Schwartz has done a lot of great work in this area with his energy project advising to work in 90 minute increments for optimal peak performance. This is also confirmed by the research done on elite performance across various fields by Anders Ericsson) and then stepping back to renew and coming back refreshed.
Quoting Jack Welch “No vision is worth the paper it’s printed on unless it is communicated constantly and reinforced with rewards.”
There is a whole chapter devoted to how to hire right. One of the points is never have an interview more than an hour and by restricting it to 30 min you make it more productive. The interview is not only about the interviewer evaluating the interviewee but it also involves the interviewee deciding if this is the right place to work. When hiring look for people who have a growth mindset. This was a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck. She says there are two types of goals one is performance goals which just involves achieving the goal and there are learning goals where you are constantly trying to get better, for example learning to speak French is a learning goal while getting 90% on the French exam is a performance goal. For more check out her book “Mindset.” So hire for candidates with a growth mindset.
One of the Do’s and Don’ts of hiring mentioned is
Hire people who are enthusiastic, self-motivated and passionate
Don’t hire people who just want a job
Innovation is one of the hottest topics on the business circuit and a topic of many business books. Everyone talks about it but what exactly is innovation. If innovation means only inventing what comes out first then we won’t have a lot of innovations. For example Apple didn’t invent the mp3 player but what they did was to take what was already available and then produce the best design/marketing to deliver something the likes of which the world hasn’t seen. Innovation can also mean something that is an improvement on the existing products/services. We all get ideas but not all of us act on it. The whole point of innovation is it is iterative and we rarely get something right the first time so it again goes back to the culture of organization and what it does to foster innovation. The authors mention the 70/20/10 rule which is 70 percent of resources are dedicated to core business, 20 percent on emerging and 10 percent on new. Google is also famous for the 20 percent rule which states that an engineer can spend 20 percent of time working on anything of their choice. The results have been great as they got Gmail, Google Now, Google news from the power of 20 percent time.
For innovation to flourish the organization has to allow for mistakes to happen and be corrected. I don’t think we need to lock ourselves in a room and wait for innovation to hit. It can be based on a hunch/intuition to make improvements. No idea is bad and in fact good ideas emerge after you exhaust all the bad ideas.
There are also chapters on Decisions, Communications and Strategies. Overall it is worth a read.