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The Myth That You Can Be Google

Mark Mzyk | March 13, 2008

I suppose I’ve propagated that myth with certain posts of mine.  But that was a post on achieving technical success like Google, not on working like Google.

Scott Berkun has a blog post about the false beliefs that surround Google’s 20% time (the policy that Google has that engineers get to spend 20% of the companies time on their own projects) .

It brings to light essentially one fact:  it’s all about company culture.

If your company doesn’t have the same or similar culture as Google’s, it’s going to be very hard to emulate Google’s success in the same way as Google.  An ingrained culture is very hard to change.  Most likely, if you want your company to become the next Google, you’re going to have to start instituting a culture similar to Google’s from the start.

That won’t be an easy thing.  Not with many of the people who would be great at helping to start the next Google going to work for Google.

I think the key to Google’s culture that no one mentions, but is inherent in everything Google does, is trust.

If I don’t trust you to use your time wisely, I’m not going to be willing to give you 20% free time.  Instead, I’m going to micromanage your time.  This almost always leads to resentment and friction, and then development takes longer, so my response is to micromange your time even more, because obviously I can’t trust you to use it wisely and be efficient.  It’s a never ending spiral.

However, if I trust you from the beginning, I’ve now invested in you.  It’s likely you’ll want to return that investment, so you’ll work harder and more efficiently.  Development will be done faster and new projects can be spun up sooner.  Or, you’ll complete the work I ask of you in 80% of the time it would have taken if I didn’t trust you, so you’ll then have 20% of your time to spend on your own projects, which might turn out to benefit the company.

Funny how that works.

Once again, it all circles back around to being a human problem.  Now, are you ready to prove me wrong and show that you can be the next Google and have a culture like Google’s?  How much trust do you have?

2 Comments

  1. Comment by Scott Berkun:

    Nice – I think you’re right on – and it goes further too. If the culture is based on trust, that changes who you hire and why. People who fit the culture will do well, and those that don’t won’t be as happy and will leave. It’s not rocket science, but most people don’t recognize the pros and cons of their *own* corporate culture, which makes it hard to look at a different company and understand theirs.

    March 17, 2008 @ 02:41
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