Book Notes : How Google Works

How Google Works
How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book lifts the lid a little on what goes on at Google. There are a number of insights which I found particularly interesting and a number of interesting anecdotes (such as the Google withdrawal from China).

There are a couple of over arching things in this book.

Bussiness plans are out of date as soon as the ink dries. Although it is good to think about where you are going, having a fixed and ridged plan of how you are going to get there is never going to suceed.

Hire great people, pay them well and let them get on with it without standing in their way will lead to creativity which you did not expect. The best smart creatives have the potential for disproportionate impact.

CEOs should make or be involved in product launches, acquisitions, public policy. The key skill of a CEO of senior leader is to know which decisions to make and which to let run their course.

Make sure you are working on the right things – spend 70% of time on the thing which is making you the money (not the thing which might in the future), spend 20% on what you think the next thing will be and 10% on speculative ideas which may or may not pay out.

Product, product product.

The best products are successful because of technical factors, not business ones. This explains why products such as Google Reader got closed down (which just presents RSS) and Google News (which aggregates data sources and identifies similar stores) was not.

Never think, we have put a lot of time and money into this so we have to make is a success. If something is not going the way it should kill it as soon as you realise it. Since there should be technical insight it is not likely to be a complete waste, it is likely some of the components are still useful for different projects.

Competitive advantages don’t last long. As such for companies to last a long time they need a “grow fast strategy”

The book refers to defaulting to open a large number of times. They explain how they feel this drives better products and that allowing people to build on the success of open tools, platforms etc drives innovation and improves things much quicker than if things are closed.

The defaulting to open also refers to not locking people in – if you lock people in so they can’t leave then it does not encourage you to innovate and as such a competition can come along and produce a much better product. This is clear from Google search where people can easily go to a competitor so by having a low barrier for the customer to change forces the company to focus on product quality.

Don’t follow competitors but do use them as motivators to keep you focused on product improvements. They gave the example of Bing and how this encouraged them on to innovate even more in search such as Google Instant Search.

If you want to know what you can do to change the world (or even your own career) think about where things will be 5 to 10 years in the future. How are things going to get from here to there, what is missing and what opportunities does this present. Thinking 5 to 10 years into the future self driving cars are extremely likely, but when Google kicked off their autonomous driving program there was not clear way how or who would get there.

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