Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book Review: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

On a cold afternoon there is really nothing better than a hot cup of tea and a great book. How Google Works was a perfect read on this lazy afternoon. As someone who loves to use Google and not really terribly familiar with the companies origins or even its inner workings, I was not sure if this would be the book for me but I figured I would give it a shot!

As for me, I sometimes think how lucky we are to be alive during this technology renaissance. As some born on the very tail end of Gen X and with a much closer affinity to Gen Y, I like to think of myself as the best of both worlds. I have always openly embraced technology and the endless opportunities it brings to our world, the social connectivity, the knowledge and power at the fingertips of millions of people every day. But with a dash of Gen X in me, skepticism shines through as well. Cautiously optimist one may say. That said, this book is an amazing read for anyone, as it transcends all generations and opens the mind to the new age of business.

As a person who spent my 20's in college, reading books from Dale Carnage,  Lee Iaccoca, Jack Welch, John Maxwell, Trump, Who Moved My Cheese, Built to Last, Tribal Leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Good to Great, pretty much anything I could get hands on so I could learn the "system", you know the way to move up in the world. One thing that always bothered me is the constraints and time it takes to get ahead. This theory of paying dues, with age comes wisdom and work your way up over time kind of annoyed me but I pressed on.

Then shortly behind me in the workforce came the Gen Y folks and their crazy ideas of graduating college and demanding corner offices or starting their own businesses. They were fearless with their requests  and maybe because they (and sometimes I consider myself in this pool) had seen 9-11 and the great recession Where in an instant the world changed for the worst and their older siblings lost it all in the housing and stock market crash, their parents who were just a year into retirement, now forced back into the low wage workforce. I think seeing the cruel world in this way, watching people fail so spectacularly and so publicly embolden these folks. I mean really, no matter what they try and even fail at, it could not be worse than Lehman Brothers or Government, I mean General Motors bailouts.

The generation who grew up with technology, social media is in their blood and perhaps because of all the bad they have seen, they are unfair to march ahead. Many feel they lack commitment, they are dreamers, maybe even lazy, some of those who think that are Gen X'ers who honestly fear them. Gen X lost over 10 years of progress in the workplace. When we should have been moving head in our careers, making progressively more money, going our 401K's, buying that next house-instead we were beat down. Many lost their homes and had to start over. Some lost all their money, lost their job and instead of reflecting on the last 10 years seeing progress, they have resentment and angry. Many lost the one thing that can truly set a person apart- Passion and Hope!

All of this said, leads me to my point as it relates to this book. Google does things differently, probably to the liking of those Gen Y. They do not run a business the way we all were taught in college, with business plans and hierarchies. They function in a collaborative, group think, academia minded way. It works and sometimes breaking away from the old gives life to the new. Personally I like the new, I am sick of the old.

I recall when I was first elected to office in my small little neck of the woods, the youngest elected official in our history and a woman, no problem there, hun? A arrogant man said to me, after I took my first political bashing for not falling in line with the rest, you know you would be wise to just keep quiet and learn the ropes for the first couple of years. Code for, listen newbie, sit down and shut up and let us older "wiser" men show you how its done. What a joke? No one who knows me or voted for me would ever think for one moment I would every sit back and fall in line with anyone, ever. The hierarchy and good old boys network was about to be introduced to a new generation of people. People, like me, who have watched the old way to running businesses and governments and have decided that is not how we are going to do things any more.

How does this all relate to the book you say?

Well the book talks about this revolution in the workplace and this new highly coveted worker. We learn the most coveted employees are called "smart creatives" they are the ones with traits such as "deep technical knowledge, analytical, understands that and how to use data, driven towards greatness, and business smart." They also mention the fact this person realizes work is not showing up from 9-5 each day, its about results as creative genius happens every where- they are full of new ideas and their perspective is different than the rest and best of all they can change their perspective as needed. Other traits are risk takers, not afraid to fail, self directed, charismatic, hands on, and do not stay with one thing for ever. (Schmidt, Eric & Rosenberg, Jonathan, 2014)

This an an exciting list of attributes and something I hope we are cultivating on our K-12 educational systems. 

In addition, the book talks about the importance of culture, something that has to be organic. Culture is something the younger workers are looking for and its not called Work-Life Balance anymore. Collaboration rules the day.

Where the book is it really starts to pick up steam for me is in the Talent-Hiring section. I have to say one of the best lines in this section is "Scouting is like shaving: If you don't do it ever day, it shows!" I agree completely. Hiring the right people for the right positions is not something that should be done casually or only when needed. It is something that requires consistent cultivation.

Many companies do not have the time or resources to adequately do that, hence the need for staffing and recruiting companies (a plug for my day job) where that is what they do, day in and day out. Another thing companies need to look for is what the book talks about as learning animals. People who are coachable and want to grow and learn. People who have skills and abilities but have something more important the ability and willingness to change, adapt and learn. You would think this is easy to find, but you are so very wrong. It is more important to have a smart and creative person who is willing to learn and grow then a egotistical super star who feels they already know it all.

As you learn more about the hiring process at Google, you begin to see why Google is a highly coveted place to work. If you get in, you really are the best and they will reward you handsomely for it. There are many companies out there that fall into this category and if you are in the job market, you should know who they are.
 
The sections on decision making, primordial ooze and communications are just as enticing to read. I found juicy nuggets through this short, day-long read and I would highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to get a better understanding of the worlds most interesting and sometimes frighteningly overly engaged in out lives company-Google.

Enjoy this great read and please share your comments!

#Google #EricSchmidt #jonathanrosenberg #business  

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