One of my plans to use my time more productively is to read more. I am setting a goal to read a book a week which is aggressive but achievable. I only read nonfiction type books so most of these will be targeted around business, biographies of historically significant people and other random topics that catch my interest.
Man for the Ages Book Review #1
Author: Ken Auletta
Why I choose this book?
I took the kids to the library on Friday and the title jumped out at me because Google is the company I find most fascinating from an organizational culture and industry impact standpoint.
What made Google so effective?
- The culture is engineering dominant and focuses on designing simple effective tools that meet customer needs in the most efficient way possible
- Brilliance of the two founders and the effectiveness of Eric Schmidt in helping to take the company into the stratosphere financially.
- Rapid search engine share growth was the focus of founder’s Brin and Page and they were always convinced the monetization and riches would follow
- New hires were heavily scrutinized especially in the beginning it was important enough to have direct involvement of the founders it was not delegated to HR.
- Challenge of the status quo and a healthy disregard for the impossible
- Google found a unique niche vs. other search engines that really wanted to be portals vs. effective search engines.
What will make Google hard to beat?
- Nearly all of their products are free and free can be more difficult to displace
- They grow more powerful every day due to the data footprint they are building via all of their major tools (search, youtube, android, etc..)
- Youtube has become the dominant video forum on the net and was a bargain of an acquisition for them.
- The founders are still running the show and staying true to their original vision for the company
Where is Google vulnerable?
- Increased global concerns around privacy and what customers allow or don’t allow.
- Large company inertia creeping in that threatens to change the culture and the way things are done.
- Lack of dominance in big important foreign markets especially China.
- Decreasing growth rates and stock maturity has led to brain drains causing top new talent to want to start or find the next Google vs. join the existing Goggle.
- Broadband cable and mobile phone providers could be better positioned to acquire deeper customer level data and more effectively link it to purchasing preferences.
- If Facebook can make some search headway and close a few gaps they are the biggest threat to become the dominant portal that really jeopardizes Google’s model
Key insights from the book
- Many companies would be better served by increased the importance of engineering principles and hiring better engineers.
- If you are a middleman in an industry you need to have strong value add not to get displaced. Technology is bringing buyers and sellers closer than ever putting the middlemen in real jeopardy.
- Google had very little EQ at their company or just decided to plow through the rights of others around important issues such as copyrights and privacy. They play the game just like any other company despite throwing around the Don’t Be Evil mantra.
- Companies either create waves (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Disney); ride waves (Dell, AMD) or get crushed by waves (many failed E companies).
- Brin & Page would not have been happy or likely successful working for the man they needed to make their own rules to thrive.
Other Topics I want to learn more about after reading this book
- A side point in the book mentioned Nikola Tesla’s brilliance but how he died penniless and bitter despite his genius. A Tesla biography is going to be a book I pick up in the next year.
- “Coach” Bill Campbell would make an interesting study I had not realized how involved he was at both Apple, Google and his role in Intuit.