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My Take on Google’s Ten Rules

Newsweek is running a “story” this week on Google’s 10 Rules. I put “story” in quotes because it was in fact authored by Eric Schmidt (chairman and CEO) and Hal Varian (professor and consultant to Google). This is not editorial content.

Maybe I am getting old, but I don’t agree with all of these. So here goes:

  1. Hire by committee – This is fine, but hardly original to Google. That’s been the rule at Microsoft (and lots of other tech companies) for as long as I can remember. Every place I have worked in the last 25 years does this.
  2. Cater to their every need – Is a sheltered, coddled workforce better than one that has to deal with real life on occasion? Are these geeks so socially inept and helpless that they need to be fed, dressed, and perhaps even wiped? Is there a dating service too? (I am not sure that I want to know the answer to that one). I have never been a big fan of the “corporation as doting mother” model, but it seems to be the rage in Silicon Valley.
  3. Pack them in – Call me old fashioned, but I need my space, and I need quiet time to think. Working as part of a hive mind isn’t always the best way to get big, hairy things done. One of the big selling points at Microsoft has been that developers do get their own office, with a door.
  4. Make coordination easy – Fine, but to call this a natural consequence of the previous rule is to take a bug (we don’t have enough office space to go around) and turn it into a feature. Hmmm, maybe they stole this one from Microsoft. There are lots of ways to coordinate that do not require physical adjacency.
  5. Eat your own dog food – Hard to argue with the fact that Google employees use the web, an intranet, and email, but who doesn’t?
  6. Encourage creativity – Can’t argue with this one. I hope that they also encourage directed creativity (“think hard to solve problem X”).
  7. Strive to reach consensus – That’s a noble goal, but sometimes organizations need a leader to cut to the chase, weigh all of the inputs, slam their fist on the table and say “Ok dudes, let’s go with option X.” Endless dithering around a decision can sap morale and get in the way of progress. In many cases some decision is far better than the “best” decision.
  8. Don’t be evil – When did throwing chairs become evil? Is fist slamming evil? And most importantly, were chairs in fact thrown? Why isn’t this rule “be good?” Lack of evil isn’t as strong of a statement, since it doesn’t imply a commitment to head in the other direction. Or is this some vague allusion to alleged evil emanating from Redmond?
  9. Data drive decisions – Yes, yes, definitely. However, let’s not downplay the value of intuition, hunches, and randomnesss. Oh yeah, and if data drives the decisions, why is it so important to reach consensus?
  10. Communicate effectively – Again, definitely. Weekly all-hands meetings sound great, but regular emails or blog entries from senior management might be even better.

So we have 10 interesting rules here, but are these the best 10 rules, or is Google the only company with 10 rules? Hardly. Discuss amongst yourselves….