Sunday, February 22, 2015

My review of How Google works

How Google WorksHow Google Works by Eric Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to start this review with a few obvious statements. This book is written by senior staff at Google. Google, like any company, has issues. Keeping all that in mind, this is still a very interesting book. It is about how to inspire ideas, encourage creative solutions, but mostly it is about letting people do their work - being inspired to problem solve, and making sure people do problem solve. There are several examples of how problems were posted on a wall, and people chose to solve them. Very quickly. They weren't asked to solve them, and they may not even have been in their area.

It is also about failure, and Google can fail impressively (like when they stopped Google reader, one of my favourite tools, but for them it was a failure). To quote from the book (location 3384) "To innovate, you must learn to fail well. Learn from your mistakes: Any failed project should yeild valuable technical, user, and market insights that can help inform the next effort Morph ideas, don't kill them...And don't stigmatize the team that failed: Make sure they land good internal jobs. The next innovators will be watching to see if the failed team is punished. Their failure shouldn't be celebrated, but it is a badge of honor of sorts". I like this because it acknowledges, rather than hides or disguised failure.

Also a quote about office design (locations 611, 613) "Offices should be designed to maximise energy and interactions, not for isolation and status...The traditional office layout, with individual cubicles and offices, is designed so that the steady state is quiet..most interactions planned..This is exactly backwards, the steady state should be highly interactive...brimming with hectic energy...Employees should always have the option to retire to a quiet place when they've had it with all the group stimulation, which is why our offices include plenty of retreats".

It also highlights the challenges of working in a meritocracy, and how people have to challenge the ideas to make sure they are the best. I learned a new term - hippo - highest paid person's opinion, and at Google they try and avoid the hippo approach, hence working at being a meritocracy.

This is an entertaining and interesting book to read, and it will give you some ideas which you can use in your work place.

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