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Google's Idea of Productivity Is a Bad Fit For Many Other Workplaces

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the do-not-try-this-at-home dept.

Google 167

New submitter rjupstate writes "Google places a lot of value on the spontaneous creativity that can occur when two employees from completely different parts of the company meet. It's an ideal that Google has perfected over the years, but it's not something that will work for most other organizations. Executives trying to replicate Google's approach could even create major problems among their workforces."

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Do they have a google Liberia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43409851)


Re:Do they have a google Liberia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410073)

Well, there's this []

Google, eh? (5, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43409871)

While google do this and I'm sure are very good at it, it's not Google's invention and it's certainly not new.

This is/was one of the major roles that the US National Labs play. Compared to univesities there is a lot more mixing between divisions and as a result a lot of very interesting science gets done because new and unexpected things pop up.

Of course now that they're run by nice efficient profit making private companies rather than hippie commie inefficient public universities, that's pretty much been killed and all semblance of productivity has gone. But that's a rant for another day.

If companies think that this kind of innication nd productivity is a bad fit then it's because they're assuming implicitly that they won't be around for more than a year. If they're going to be around you need to develop new products and also develop better ways of creating/designing/building those products. If you're not doing that, then you risk losing out to someone who does.

Re:Google, eh? (5, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43410011)

You've got to make the numbers some random individuals who call themselves "analysts" each quarter, otherwise you are out.

This kind of innovation takes more than 90 days to develop, implement, ship and market, therefore, it has no value.

Re:Google, eh? (5, Insightful)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#43411603)

Google only gets away with operating this way due to their profitability. They can consider the 20% partly as a means to keep employees motivated and happy to stay with the company, and partly as a kind of investment into research and development. If the company's profitability decreases, you can bet there will be shareholders howling for the 20% to be axed - and I see that event, if it occurs, as the beginning of Google's transition into the next Microsoft.

It's difficult to make a logical argument for the 20% plan for a company that's not currently profitable. How would you present that to executives? "I know we're barely breaking even, but if you give the employees 20% of their time to work on independent projects, I think our long term prospects will improve." I suspect it would work in many cases - you would boost morale, have better employee retention, and some of the employees would use that 20% time to learn skills that make their performance improve in their primary jobs. But it's difficult to quantify, and I think most people would just view it as a 20% loss of productivity with less than equal gain in other areas. That's capitalism... and as much as I hate it, I'm not aware of anything better.

Re:Google, eh? (3, Interesting)

Zeromous (668365) | about a year ago | (#43412381)

It helps to think of a capitalistic economy on a macro level as a series of bubbles percolating to the surface. Heat (productivity) is added to a jumble of H2O. For every bubble that pops (Microsoft, later google) there will be another bubble forming down below amongst the 'losers', 'newbs'. Large companies that fail to innovate are just part of the landscape; They are bubbles that have formed and released the sum of their heat productivity- Their remaining productivity now free to drip through the consciousness of the consumer (delivery), slowly until it is gone and all new productivity is lost (steam). It makes it easier for new bubbles to form, rise and eventually pop themselves. It also helps to imagine at the end you get nice warm tasty cup of joe (culture), to contemplate the endless business cycle.

Capitalism = Coffee.

Re:Google, eh? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410247)

I suspect the reason that it works for Google is that they actively seek the smartest and most creative individuals out there and hire them.

Most other companies "fill positions", otherwise known as keeping the correct number of chairs warm.

No I don't work for Google, and yes I would like to ...

Re:Google, eh? (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#43410331)

Yup, they've made it very clear - as do many other successful tech companies - that they consider the hiring process to be the most important thing they do.

You hire a certain type of people and it's virtually certain that some innovation will occur under your roof, because that kind of person will be bored senseless if they don't. Combine that with a company mandate to spend 20% of your time doing whatever the hell you want to and that's Google's recipe for success - like good bread - fine ingredients, given space to grow, not forced like the Chorleywood white bread [] process that most companies want.

Valve also grok this. Their employee manual basically says "organize yourself into groups and do whatever the hell you want [] " (yes, really).

Meyer's problem is she doesn't understand this. Rather than doing what Google do - make the office so damn nice that people WANT to go there - she's just mandating that people HAVE to go there. Whether she argued for the carrot and the board told her that they couldn't afford it, so she had to use the stick, or whether she just thought that Google was too soft while she was there, doesn't make a difference.

Google understands - creative people dislike being told what to do, but more importantly LOATHE being told how to do it.

Re:Google, eh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411099)

or maybe she understand this very well. Yahoo already had 4 CEOs in the past 5 years and different methodology has been attempted. I agree that hiring the right people is the most important first step. She's stuck with slackers and geniuses, and everything in between. Can you think of a better way of getting rid of the useless bottom feeders other than firing them softly?
What she did is better for morale rather than a blanket layoff announcement. It's not great, but it's the lesser of two evils.

Re:Google, eh? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411111)

"Google understands - creative people dislike being told what to do, but more importantly LOATHE being told how to do it."

going one direction with that:
      true, but they enjoy being show interesting problems and appreciate being shown tricks that help when they get stuck
    Maybe managing interesting folks who can create neat new stuff is an art in itself.

going another direction:
      Is Steve Jobs a counter example. He did what should run off the good folks, but got pretty good stuff out.

Re:Google, eh? (4, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#43411529)

I think Steve's method wasn't to tell people how to do stuff, but tell people it wasn't good enough until he thought it was.

There's a story (which I can't find) which exemplifies this : back in the mists of time, Steve sent back the design for a particular piece of UI so often that the programmer wrote an application style toolkit, and the next meeting he had, when Steve didn't like something, he just reconfigured it until he did.

Asking creative people to excel doesn't put them off - forcing them to do things a particular way and complaining when it doesn't produce results does.

Re:Google, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411127)

Sorry to burst the slashdot bubble, but people working to find a new way for google to squeeze money out of advertisers are not "creative".

Re:Google, eh? (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#43411539)

Meyer changed the rules at Yahoo because an audit of their VPN logs indicated that most Yahoo employees that were telecommuting used the VPN far fewer than eight hours a day.

I'm not saying she's going to do a good job with Yahoo or a poor job, I'm just saying that particular decision was not made for the reason you state.

Re:Google, eh? (5, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43411427)

While google do this and I'm sure are very good at it, it's not Google's invention and it's certainly not new.

To me Google sounds like a nightmarish place to work. It's my understanding that most of those perks they provide aren't designed to make you happier, they're designed to keep you at work 24/7. They want to make the campus a "home away from home" precisely so you'll never go home. Combine that with the idea of working out in the open, with no personal space to call your own, and it all sounds very Orwellian to me. I used to work at a place like that. Every morning, everyone had to get together and recite the company's mission statement. Groupthink and the echo chamber reigned supreme, and everyone was expected to be a glassy eyed member of the cult, with no disagreement or debate tolerated. Got out of there as fast as I could (lucky for me, because they folded not long after that). Life in an isolated bubble is no way to live, and no way to develop good product either (since the bubble can become a real reality distortion field too).

Re:Google, eh? (5, Insightful)

nblender (741424) | about a year ago | (#43412085)

Some of my fondest work-related memories are the times where I flew on-site and worked into the wee hours of the morning with my co-workers (some of whom also flew in)... 2 weeks of intense productivity pulling off herculean tasks while at the same time, all going out for meals/drinks, laughing, joking around...

I don't think I could do it fulltime but in brief bursts, those are the days I remember having the greatest creativity and productivity...

Re:Google, eh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43412491)

Like any other company, the whole thing varies within Google. You have the artsy pretentious designers/producers etc, the type this setup seems to be geared to. You also have the clear eyed, no bullshit, get the fucking job done programmer/architect/manager whatever. Indeed, one of the worst things about the culture at Google is the prevalence of cliques, which may or not be bad depending on what type of work you do within the company.

The secret of Google's success (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#43409877)

When a company is successful - especially a sexy tech company - other companies always seem to try to copy their working practices to try and emulate that success. 20 years ago it was Microsoft. Before that it was IBM. These days it's Google.

Well, I can reveal the one thing you need to be as successful as Google: Have an effective monopoly on internet searches. Or Operating systems. Or computers.

The thing is, Google can be as inefficient as it likes. It has a hefty cash cow bringing in the money. Perhaps Google's idea here works, perhaps it doesn't. The fact that Google does it doesn't make it magic. You need a product to make a lot of money.

Re:The secret of Google's success (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43409931)

Google is at least trying to look past the internet search monopoly. When was the last time Microsoft did something new? Yes, they didn't. What they do is buy some new ideas that some small company has created (looks like they always manage to fail those too). Google is simply trying to get those new ideas done in-house. Might be cheaper, might not. What it surely is, is greating a great work place for the types of people that enjoy creating something new. It's not likely that kind of people will switch jobs, even to a higher paying one, if they don't get the perks and freedom they now might have.

Re:The secret of Google's success (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#43409979)

This isn't a criticism of Google. Google is at liberty to experiment with management ideas because they've earned that right (or at least the money to do so). It's a criticism of management types who think they can emulate Google's success by doing what Google does.

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43412565)

It's a criticism of management types who think they can emulate Google's success by doing what Google does.

Essentially, it's "Cargo Cult Management", and it's all to common.

- T

Re:The secret of Google's success (2)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#43410079)

It looks like MS are desperately trying to look past their established monopolies, because despite their level of lock-in slowing it down sooner or later they won't be making so much money from their established markets...

Google on the other hand have very little lock-in, although they do have a lot of inertia.

It is still very easy to use a different search engine, but it is much harder to stop using windows.

Re:The secret of Google's success (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410887)

Haven't bothered with windows since 1993 - what's so hard about that?

The easy way out is a mac - for the more adventurous there is linux . . .

Re:The secret of Google's success (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43412303)

Certainly not easy on your pockets, since the hardware they sell costs at least 3 times more than it should, just to have a fruity logo slapped on it, and the "privilege" to run a Fisher-Price OS.

Re:The secret of Google's success (2)

Soluzar (1957050) | about a year ago | (#43410611)

Launching a phone OS, or tablet OS? MS are trying to diversify out of their tradtional core business, they just aren't any good at it. I can't say they aren't trying though.

Re:The secret of Google's success (2)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year ago | (#43412101)

When was the last time Microsoft did something new? Yes, they didn't.

...what? They've been consistently trying out new things. Where have you been?

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#43409987)

It is true of course that without a product that sells no organization is going to survive. However to get the product done, support it and improve it you need good people and if you have more than 2-3 guys it is my experience that you need some sort of flexible organization that allows to do stuff as it is necessary - this includes longer coding binges, cooperative trable-shooting, analysis alone or in changing groups of specialists or fetching experience from other groups to see if you can do a better job. It also depends what job/product you have and what people you work with. I think the lesson from any of these good companies as well as the failing ones is that you have techniques and processes that are fit for certain situation and different ones in others. When you look at this in that way you will find google method a nice learning experience that you can but do not have to use. Gosh I can even imagine (albeit with difficulty) that putting all your employees into a cubicle farm can also be productive especially if a cubicle farm is made fit for the purpose and ordered by some incompetent asshole who sees advise only in his excel sheet. I guess what I wanted to say is that blind copy/paste approach often done in by coders as well as managers (as in TFA) is silly. You need to understand what parts of what you see is doing what and why then your copy/paste canactually work.

Re:The secret of Google's success (1, Flamebait)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43410023)

The exception is Apple. Every quarter, everybody is screaming at Apple, "You are dead unless you stop what you are doing and switch to doing what everybody else in the industry is doing."

Stuff like:
-licensing the OS
-making a zillion models of phones
-making netbooks!
-making a low-cost version of every product they make for 'value consumers'

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

0ld_d0g (923931) | about a year ago | (#43410595)

Actually, only stupid "analysts" who understand nothing about technology are screaming that because their job is to inflate the share price.

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43412511)

Apple did it's own thing for a very long time. The result that Apple was marginalized and nearly forgotten until Steve Jobs came back. At which point he pretty much abdicated the PC market.

History is now repeating itself with Apple's new consumer electronics business.

Re:The secret of Google's success (5, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#43410217)

Managers and executives are always looking at successful companies (or reading books about them). That's part of their job: to keep up with developments in their professional field. And if something seems to be working well for one company, it makes a lot of sense to try it in another.

The difference is made by the quality of the manager. Bad ones will blindly copy something they think worked for another firm, then fail to recognise success or understand the reasons behind a failure. Sadly I've seen my share of those, but there are plenty of good managers too, who don't copy blindly. They understand key factors in the success of a particular way of doing things, know if these are also applicable in their own company, know how to implement change and to evaluate its effects. At a distance, it might seem all these managers are doing the same thing and can only hope to achieve success by accident, but that's not always the case.

The article points out such details: there are good reasons for Google to be doing this, and there may be good reasons why the same approach isn't going to work for someone else.

Re:The secret of Google's success (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43410251)

When a company is successful - especially a sexy tech company - other companies always seem to try to copy their working practices to try and emulate that success.

Also.... Google's current practices might be what they need to do to stay ahead; Not what you need to do, if you are not at the top and want to get there and win.

When you're not at the top... you may be better served by concentrating your efforts on a smaller number of products, to become the best; small number of products/innovations, to become the leader in one specific product -- choose a product that can easily be expanded upon (Search can be expanded upon naturally, because you get people visiting your site for search, now you have a chance to start offering them additional things later).
Because your available cash is very limited, and the risk of not producing is high; even if you were to develop a large number of ideas, it would probably be fiscally irresponsible to attempt to pursue or use all the resources to consider as many product ideas as Google could consider...

For a non-leader, innovation is important, BUT constraint on innovation is also important. You need a way of deciding upon a few innovations, that can be protected or are not easily replicated, in order to win.

Then once you are at the top, you have succeeded, after you have committed all the appropriate investments into strategic uses and maintaining leadership and expanding your business... you might want to devote some resources to expanding into other areas mainly as a hedge against risk from competitors, innovating is a lot harder -- and you can afford some extra costs in terms of inneficiency, if it will probably help give you the ideas and ability to execute you need to expand into additional territory, maintain your edge, and avoid being eclipsed by a competitor.

Since you are already on the top in one area -- what's the worst that could go wrong? You could have a secondary product fail at a small cost, but huge prospects for more profit.

Maybe loss of worker productivity does not adversly affect the bottom line for an internet business like Google; which have few interactions to manage with customers or users of their products.

Maybe the way you define productivity (And therefore: what kind of influence Telework would have on it), is inherently connected to the current goals and state of the company.

What workers are more likely to do who telework or with random encounters, might translate differently dependant on the company's needs

In other words: someone who accomplishes the exact same amount of work, and comes up with the exact same amount type and nature of ideas and collaborations, has the exact same discussions

Might be defined to be less productive in one company, and more productive in another company.

Because different things that they did (such as participation in discussions) might have different value.

In other words company-relative productivity. In this case, there are no hard and fast rules, about what makes workers more productive, because different companies get different utility, and a single-dimensional numerical access is a misleading way of representing worker utility

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year ago | (#43410573)

When it comes to promoting creativity it is pretty simple. You need to promote communications between people, in the right environment that not only promotes delay and discussion but also contemplation of real issues. Goggle more or less stumbled upon it and then assumed people with certain preferred qualifications could recreate it (this drew in others who tried to copy it), only to find that fails as it only exists at it's campus rather than at other locations. The most important part of it is people who will lead it, assist it along, manage the environment to promote it and continue to support it. The Yahoo effort will be a massive fail, first up the idiot attempt to force it by taking away something from the employees the only thing they will discuss is the bitch that forced it upon them and that will only drive down morale and cripple creativity. Smart idea to ensure you are on track, do the exact opposite of the crazy Yahoo move and enable work from home but try to create a working environment that gets people to prefer the office. In many ways the office needs to feel like home but be better and more social.

Re:The secret of Google's success (0)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#43411143)

Well said. However, everyone will now call you a Microsoft shill.

People here seem to find it logically impossible to believe anyone can criticise Google unless they're being paid to do so.

Re:The secret of Google's success (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411241)

Chicken and egg situation here:

Which came first, the nice product, or people working that product up, under the guise of 'doing whatever the hell they wanted'?

Re:The secret of Google's success (2, Insightful)

Medievalist (16032) | about a year ago | (#43411505)

Well, I can reveal the one thing you need to be as successful as Google: Have an effective monopoly on internet searches. Or Operating systems. Or computers.

Nonsense! Alta Vista dominated search, there were a half dozen smaller competitors, and Google had nothing. Nothing, not even name recognition. Fast forward eight years, nobody even remembers what Alta Vista was, and "googling" something is synonymous with searching the verb.

The smartest thing Google did was understand Dijkstra's observations about fitting computing strategies to human capacities. Google's nearly blank search screen was vastly preferable to Yahoo, Alta Vista, et al., because it wasn't covered with distracting crap. You can pretend they were magically granted a monopoly but in reality they earned their dominance of internet searching.

huge flaw in google search (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43412147)

Alta Vista would actually let you search for exact strings or phrases and exclude everything else. Google still doesn't.

Re:The secret of Google's success (2)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#43412325)

Really, my point is that Google's dominance was because they had a far better product when they were a startup. Not because of their management strategies after they became a multinational. I'm not trying to suggest they didn't earn it. Just that analysts are focussing on the wrong aspect to find out how they did so.

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411653)

As a former Googler I can attest to this. A lot of things are done very inefficiently, but if anyone objects and proposes a better (21st century) approach, this is immediately shot down. The justification? The company's profits. "Obviously our way is superior, because we make so much money", is the argument. Search's profits support most of the other, decidedly unprofitable activities. The few other profitable areas are a few orders of magnitude smaller than search in terms of profit, so they really don't count.

A lot of Google's engineering practices are inherited from its origins (imagine what a couple of grad school dropouts did then), and a lot of senior (as in low employee ID) engineers spend a lot of their energies perpetuating those practices. Most of their arguments are garbage, but one thing always wins inside Google: a low employee ID always wins. One I had a two-digit guy trying to convince me that I shouldn't, in general, uses Mutexes in a C++ program because "few people really understand how they work". Huh? And then all my team members agreed with him, because he was internally famous, and wouldn't allow Mutexes in any of my code they were reviewing. Google needs some truly bright engineers to be able to function with all the double-think required.

Does that sound like Google's self-proclaimed meritocracy? Not on your life. For me, all the free meals weren't worth the price of putting up with such nonsense. And I would never recommend that other companies copy Google's practices, unless they have a cash cow to prop up the company.

(To be fair, I was in a part of Google that was infamous for eating its young, but it was a difference of degree, not kind, from the other parts of the company.)

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43411685)

"Before that it was IBM."

IBM has never been "a sexy tech company". It's been a suit-mandatory company with a lot of company albums.

Re:The secret of Google's success (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about a year ago | (#43412237)

Absolutely agree.

You get a lot of leeway with a 'monopoly' over a market.

Even a lot of the innovation of the early days of computing and networking was due to monopolies. Heck, C++ was invented by ATT/Bell labs. And of course ATT operated under a telecom monopoly.

This of course died when ATT ended its monopoly and split out its lab division on its own. And the innovation was never heard from again.

I fully understand the idea of creative destruction and being free to innovate and competition. That is the mark of our current startup culture.

However, I think it is equally important not to overlook professionalism and long term companies, long term scientific careers.

We've had several articles on slashdot in the past about 'shallow innovation'. The idea that our 'best' minds are creating twitter and facebook instead of real deep problems.

Well, given the startup culture... which do you think makes more sense? For a young bright kid to start a venture on shallow knowedge; that is knowledge that make take them a year or so to learn (web development).
Or go to school and study on their own for 7+ years learning some obscure abstract science... and then go out hunting for funding... and starting some company?
Yeah, shallow innovation rules.
And any deep innovation is going to come from university offshoots.

The longer term innovative companies as we said operate from some kind of basic cash-cow to subsidize the other part. Heck, even the 'glory' days of open source were heavily subsidized by ridiculously over priced hardware or a monopoly position in some market.

These mainly come in places where you have a huge cash cow in some kind of 'monopoly' position. Microsoft Research, Google 20%, ATT labs...

After looking at it for a while, I'm much less against such cash-cows/monopolies/vertical integration than I used to be. With monopolies, you can either try and encourage competition or you can regulate them.

Rubbish (5, Insightful)

evilmidnightbomber77 (2891503) | about a year ago | (#43409915)

I used to find out more interesting stuff in a couple of minutes in the smoking shelter than in any organised meeting. I work in IT infrastructure btw.

Re:Rubbish (2)

methano (519830) | about a year ago | (#43410835)

For the few years after you couldn't smoke in your office but before it was banned outright, the various smoking places were a great place to get to know and interact with other people in the company on a more casual level. I finally gave it up about 6 years ago but I miss the social aspect of hanging out with a few people who all knew they were doing something wrong. I don't understand why some health nazi modded you down.

Examples? (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#43409923)

Any examples of new _profitable_ and _innovative_ (copying others doesn't count for much) Google stuff that has come out of Google's idea of productivity?

So far they're still mostly making money from ads right? What else?

I doubt most companies will be so happy that their employees come out with innovative stuff that doesn't actually make the company more money.

Re:Examples? (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43410077)

Google wave was certainly innovative, mostly because it so effectively made even young users feel old.

"This seems cool, but I'm not really sure what use it is or even how to use it. I'll just go back to email, then."

As for innovative stuff which makes no money: most of it never will, that's life. Look at university research. Most will never see the light out of some small academic circle. But every so often it comes out with massive world changing things. The thing is, it is impossible to predice in advance what will be interesting and what will be useful.

Though search aside, I'm having trouble of thinking of things from google with a really big impact.

Android was purchased from outside. Chrome has made a big impact, but it (a) uses the webkit engine which isn't google, (b) is heavily advertisied on the worlds biggest advertiser and (c) is solid, but not especially innovative. Google groups came from deja-news years back, worked great until they removed threading, then sucked.

Google maps was really pretty cool. Though I remember seeing a java applet one a few years prior which was considerably smoother. Google maps is the first cool and not needing a plugin one that I remember seeing.

Google earth---they just bought some GIS company and released for free what GIS people were used to paying $-nan for. Cool, but not new.


Docs, kinda alright but I work with sharp people and LaTeX + git has served me very well so far.

Go seems OK as a better alternative to scripting languages, but the go authors seem to have (a) hilariously misunderstood C++ and (b) be baffled as to why it's not got much traction in the C++ community. This is particularly surprising given the names involved. Nevertheless it seems a decent enough language.

But one does hear of interesting and useful internal projects, like a C++ refactoring tool based on the LLVM parser that allows things like automated API changes to huge codebases, except that these things have a habit of never appearing outside. Maybe it makes them more competitive or maybe it's just smoke. Hard to tell.

Re:Examples? (2)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#43410289)

I don't recall Google Wave making them money.

So in short - none of the innovative stuff they came up with made money?

Re:Examples? (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year ago | (#43410417)

Yes; but they stop others from making money and that's good too. Investment in being 1st

Re:Examples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411139)

And here I thought "innovative" stuff was, by definition, supposed to be making money, otherwise it was just another invention, no matter how cool it was or even the amount of benefit to mankind in general it provides.

Maybe it's just me, but I have: .- Really cool stuff that people may or may not use: Invention (i.e Research) .- Making that stuff into something people could eventually use: Development .- Actually making something (new-ish) that people do use and there's money being made: Innovation.

Re:Examples? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410829)

Being a little dismissive of maps there I think, given streetview.

They've photographed entire countries from the roadside, pretty epic (though perhaps not money making)

Re:Examples? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411879)

As an link in the chain to selling ads, I'd bet maps has made a metric assload of money.

Re:Examples? (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year ago | (#43411741)

I'd say most of Google's projects don't cost them much to run, mostly because they don't have to support it. Google isn't known for having decent customer support, even for paying customers.

Re:Examples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410105)

Google Fiber

Re:Examples? (2)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#43410333)

Is that profitable and innovative?

What's so innovative about gigabit internet? Gigabit internet is available in many countries. It should be regarded as shameful not innovative that a search engine company has to provide internet services just because the country's ISPs are so crap and poorly regulated.

The free internet package is innovative I guess, but is it profitable?

Re:Examples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410811)

I think your're really reaching out there with your definition. It's innovative enough to be the first in USA and that's good enough for me. As for profitability, Google seems to think so, and between my opinion, your opinion and Google's, I think I'll take theirs. Also you can add android and the play store along with their line of nexus hardware to the growing list.

Re:Examples? (3, Insightful)

Instine (963303) | about a year ago | (#43410119)

they make so much money from ads, in part, because they are trusted by customers to be clever enough to magically put the right ads in front of the right people, and enough right people. Their other products may not make a lot directly, but boy are they strategically beneficial. Search is absolutely key, obviously, but youtube is the second biggest search engine. Gmail puts ads infront of people but also aids the AI behind context aware smarts.Everything they do can be said to help those ads become more effective, larger in volume, more trusted and seen by more people. Their may be some obscure contradictions, but name a few. I bet we can see how they help their ad revenue.

Re:Examples? (1)

ccguy (1116865) | about a year ago | (#43410387)

So far they're still mostly making money from ads right? What else?

I'm willing to bet they make money from Google Apps. And if they wanted to charge something for an ad free gmail account (not in user domains, just the old gmail accounts without any ad) I'm quite sure they'll get lots of cash, too.

Re:Examples? (2)

jimicus (737525) | about a year ago | (#43410723)

Google Apps for Business also makes money.

of-course (3, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#43409927)

Of-course they create problems.

First: Google business was growing with the developers that worked there, so they knew and understood the business model and processes. It's unlikely that in most other companies business is fully understood by the developers.

Second: Google hiring practice ensures they have above average employees, I know that many companies say this sort of thing, but it's just not true for most companies. Their hiring practice and pay levels are nowhere near sufficient to attract and retain top level talent.

Third: Google can survive many failed projects and still get publicity out of some of them, they are an advertising agency, but they are a tech company. Most other companies have tech bolten on top somehow, but their core is some other business, not tech itself. The more tech things Google does, the more it has to invest in tech infrastructure and this always heps their business model, so even many failed projects force thinking about further growth of tech infrastructure and from Google perspective that's what grows their business anyway.

Academic research (5, Funny)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#43409937)

Well yes of course. If there's one thing I have learned from reading the Harvard Business Review is that to build a successful company your management structure needs to be flexible yet strict, specific and diverse, your company needs to have a flat organisational chart with few managers, it needs many levels of management to keep it under control. You need to keep your employees happy by letting them think for themselves, and you need to control their every movement and thought throughout the day. You need to diversify and yet focus on your core competencies.

The reality is that the only universally unsuccessful business strategy is thinking that simply copying some successful company will guarantee you success. In any other case I'm sure I can find an example in the Harvard Business Review where {insert management fad of the week} will be the best thing your company can't do without.

Re:Academic research (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43409967)

If there's one thing I have learned from reading the Harvard Business Review is that to build a successful company your management structure needs to be flexible yet strict, specific and diverse, your company needs to have a flat organisational chart with few managers, it needs many levels of management to keep it under control. You need to keep your employees happy by letting them think for themselves, and you need to control their every movement and thought throughout the day. You need to diversify and yet focus on your core competencies.

You are on to something there but I'm pretty sure that you need a couple more buzzwords to be really accurate.

Re:Academic research (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43410087)

Allow me to translate:

A core competency is something a company used to do well, but is now a small, unprofitable part of the business. Naturally then the company needs to dump all the profitable stuff and focus on what they're bad at.

Seriously why do companies do that?

Re:Academic research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410259)

Because the decisionsmakers are incompetent, and thus afraid of those who are competent and need to eradicate the competent from the workplace?

Just experience.

Re:Academic research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410285)

Except that's not what a core competency is. Cynical much?

The term "core competency" is in fact fairly self-explanatory, I would have thought. Like, my core competency is programming and optimization. It's the entireity of my business and extremely profitable. I would therefore want to focus on that, instead of (say) building websites. That's what "focusing on your core competencies" means.

Re:Academic research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410959)


Re:Academic research (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year ago | (#43411269)

... Naturally then the company needs to dump all the profitable stuff and focus on what they're bad at.

Seriously why do companies do that?

We a company is in trouble it needs to cut costs and sell assets. You can sell off your crap, but nobody wants to pay much money for crap, so you'd go under anyway. The only thing that's going to make enough money to keep you afloat, is to sell your "seed corn". So you sell your most valuable assets, keep the crap and hope that someone left can spin that crap into gold.

Yes, 99 times out of 100, you are going under anyway, but if every other way has 100% chance of failure, it's time to throw the Hail Mary pass and hope for the best.

Re:Academic research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410705)

You can usually pick out which buzzwords the Harvard Brownnose Review will use by looking at the list of advertisers.....

Re:Academic research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411141)

One major problem with this country is that folks believe what they read in HBR instead of thinking.
    An MBA is no substitute for a brain.

Islandism (1, Interesting)

blackiner (2787381) | about a year ago | (#43409953)

So basically what they are saying is, you should always stick to people like yourself and never try to expand your views to any sort of 'foreign' cultures or viewpoints? Because the stereotypical Caucasion American is the peak of human development.

Re:Islandism (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about a year ago | (#43410163)

What? You are saying that the USA is not the best ever country in the entire universe? Damn. And I thought that is the crown to achieve. Well then I have to find out what I really want.

Re:Islandism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410191)

It's not even the best country in North America.

Re:Islandism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410881)

It seems to produce a whole lot more innovative tech businesses than Mexico, but I admit we haven't done much to close the taco gap.

Re:Islandism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411205)

It's not even the best country in North America.

Why doesn't Canada just invade the USA and put the rest of us out of our misery?

Re:Islandism (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#43412249)

Why they should? You don't throw good money after bad.

The reverse, however, does not work either (4, Interesting)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#43410037)

I work in a small R & D team set up as an internal joint venture between two daughter companies of the same group. Some time ago, the other daughter - i.e. the one I do not belong to - withdrew its commitment. We decided to carry on, on our own. What happens now is that our people go informally to engineers and stakeholders of the "other" daughter, and that work is being done as before - albeit without the formal blessing of management, almost in a subversive way. Do I like it better this way ? Sure, it feels like working, suddenly and again, in a combination of an open-source project and a start-up. Is it frustrating ? Yes, whenever I try to get some resources for a task longer than a few days. Overall, though, it's better.

google rejected Con kolivas (1)

invictusvoid (2882111) | about a year ago | (#43410043)

Google rejected Con Kolivas because of his "Lack of breadth" . Once a company gets bigger and successful ( financially ) rigidity and bureaucracy creeps in invariably . It's like the cycle of dominant species on this planet ..
-- Don't take that long haired barefoot hacker called Stallman lightly ..

Cite (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | about a year ago | (#43410239)

Cite, please?

Re:Cite (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410415)

Cite, please?

In this article [] , Con Kolivas says, "As you may have read on this blog last year, I got invited to interview with Google for a job as a software engineer and then in the end I got turned down due to lack of adequate breadth of knowledge."

Re:google rejected Con kolivas (2)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#43410971)

Google rejected Con Kolivas because of his "Lack of breadth" .

Google doesn't reject candidates immediately, and they certainly do not communicate particular reasons for rejection. Generally you find out when the recruiter working on putting the candidate through the system calls back to either give you an offer, or thank you for applying, but that they won't be extending an offer at this time.

He may indeed have been rejected for the reasons he claims, but any specific claims are likely derived from where he himself believes he blew things during the interview process. Note that it's really important to Google that their candidates know enough CS terminology that they are able to communicate with each other effectively at a high information density. It's likely that an anaesthetist might not be able to cope with that effectively, given his primary training is as a physician.

This is more or less the same problem that a lot of self-taught or non-formally educated programmers have when applying to places like Google. They can be brilliant programmers, but they will have difficulty working in a team if they can't communicate about the work effectively.

Re:google rejected Con kolivas (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#43411239)

What you're saying is that, just like in any other business, the way to get on at Google is to fit in with their corporate culture?

Google's just happens to involve being good at Computer Science buzzword bingo instead of the more normal MBA buzzword bingo.


Different everywhere (3, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#43410063)

The problem is that too many workplaces simply want to copy what's being done elsewhere, without actually considering what's appropriate given their own unique criteria (eg staff, line of business, available workspace, relationships between employees and between employees and upper management etc).

I've seen many ridiculous policies introduced by various businesses because "$othercompany does it" when it's a very poor fit...

Chief among these is the idea that simply working longer hours will increase productivity... This may work in extremely mundane roles, but in roles which are taxing either physically or mentally the employees will get tired and subsequently work more slowly, make more mistakes, or usually both.

Re:Different everywhere (1)

dimeglio (456244) | about a year ago | (#43410501)

Perhaps that's because many companies are risk averse. Real entrepreneurship demands risk taking to be successful. Google can afford taking risks, Microsoft as well. Both have their cash cows to provide regardless of success or failure of their ideas. Apple has taken more risks than an investor would generally withstand. But that's the nature of Apple (at least it was with Jobs).

Many industries rely on think tanks such as Gartner or Forester to guide them. Obviously, they'll sell you the exact same thing they sell to every other company. If Gartner says Windows 8 is the next great thing, everyone will jump on it. And it's a lot easier to get your budget approved by upper management if it has Gartner's blessings.

Just because (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about a year ago | (#43410147)

Just because something works in one context, does not mean it is also a great idea in another area.

Bribing vs. Forcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410587)

Everything they list from Google is ENCOURAGING employees to spend time around the workplace. That produces a very different attitude then FORCING employees to do this. People don't like to be forced, and quite frankly, as soon as you start forcing, your employees will start only living up to your most basic demands. Rather then happy, productive, creative employees, you will have people doing the bare minimum asked of them. That's the whole reason Google uses BRIBES in the first place, to keep their employees happy and producitve.
Most companies don't understand this, and THAT is why it can't be replicated by most companies.

Simple example, employee arrives at work, sees a newspaper sitting on the ground in front of the office, and decides to pick it upon the way in. Manager sees this, and tells the employee he will now have to do that every day, or get fired. Instead of doing this out of good will, the employee is now doing this to not get fired, (note: not every employee has a choice about where they work).
A week later, on the way in, the employee sees one of their signs has been knocked down. He thinks about fixing it for a second, but remembers what happened last time. The last thing he wants is to be seen anywhere near that sign, and so simply walks away.
I'm using this as an example BECAUSE COMPANIES ACTUALLY DO THIS, LITERALLY. The article talks about them trying to force good will among employees, and it not working, and we're what, surprised?

and they say the only problem with this is that some employees who made an agreement with the company to NOT HAVE TO RELOCATE, will have to; being forced to move to a different city, despite the contract saying otherwise sounds like a massive breach of contract.

Because what?, one guy got caught doing what companies have been doing for years?, or was it that companies have been trying to do for years, but always get extremely shitty code out of it? Or was it because he was technically not a manager, and should therefore know his place? For the price they were paying him, he always met his targets and by their own admission produced good code. Companies can't have that, now can they?

What are you discussing? (1)

BarbambiaKirgudu (2578457) | about a year ago | (#43410689)

Those who never have been with Google do not really know the ground truth about life at Google. Those who are with Google at the moment of this writing are not going to speak up here (at least to say anything contrary to rosy pictures) if they want to keep working for Google. Those who left had signed NDA and still may hold Google shares, etc.

Not for everyone (1)

R3d Jack (1107235) | about a year ago | (#43410859)

This reminds of the Scrum fad at many local development shops. Unfortunately, the only part of the Scrum actually implemented is the daily meeting. From where I sit, the problem is that Google, Scrum, etc. are predicated on the idea that an independent group of individuals will produce good results. This works when the group is made up of high-performing individuals who naturally fulfill different roles needed to accomplish the task at hand. In my experience, these individuals are the exception, and only elite organizations are able to recruit and retain them, and only for elite tasks. As much as I hate to admit it, the rest of us need some managing to get the more mundane (and abundant) projects done. Only only wish there were more more skilled managers.

That's why they have so many cancelled products (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43410885)

It's a culture that rewards "cool ideas" instead of rock solid code (OK, the search engine infrastructure has the latter, but that's the one hit they developed themselves). Pitch or perish.

So Google releases lots of trial balloons [] that are mistaken for real products (y'know, like they'll be around in a few years) by consumers.

Conglomerate much? (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#43410961)

Google is effectively a conglomerate, with its employees encouraged to expand that conglomerate into as many interesting and profitable business lines as is possible. Generally they try to stick to their strength of crazy big data but that encompasses a huge area of business. So nearly out of control innovation and expansion makes sense. Also google has the raw spare revenue to regularly screw up so they can play the odds that a certain small fraction of their experiments will pay off.

Most other businesses are constrained by a more focused core business (we make drill bits, or we sell wooden patio furniture) so right off the bat random explorations into whatever catches an employe's attention would just be weird. But more importantly most businesses are not experiencing a waterfall of money that they can risk on basically everything. Even if a company does have an R&D budget it is sufficiently tight that careful thought needs to be given before spending it.

That all said, most older companies seem to have huge institutional resistance to change, huge as in they are allergic to it. A common scenario that I have seen is where a new employee comes in and is bathed in stupid procedures or technologies that are potentially from the 70s. They will suggest a simple effective change and be told something like "Whoa there young'n, don't think you can come in here fresh out of diapers and start running the place. You need to earn some seniority and then it will be your turn (20-30 years from now)." This comes under the category of "Don't make me look bad."

Simple tech examples of this would be companies that I have seen where IT companies were using ISDN (256K) for 50+ employees when a home connection would be in the Mbs. Companies still buying Sun hardware when their own software provider had told them years before that all support for Sun was over and that their licence was portable to Linux where the upgrades were plentiful.

And my favorite where a large company was using a terminal based product management system that took employees weeks and weeks to master (RT for return to main menu, DTS 12147 for display sales of the 147th day of 2012). So one of the employees, on his own, time developed a web based system that interfaced with the termina system's API. A drunken monkey could use the new web based system, the company nearly fired him for "hacking" their system. So he sent off screenshots to the company who made the terminal based system and they bought(and hired) it from him and less than a year later the old company bought an amazing web based upgrade. Keep in mind this upgrade cost them a bloody fortune. One other fact was that it was well within the design of the system to interface other systems with it. For instance the POS system was separate and had been built to interface with the back end terminal system so developing a web interface to a published API was not even some kind of violation of the license. So in this example you have a company doing google style innovation for free and still rejecting it.

My last observation is that risk taking also requires the company know how to deal with failure. Many companies will set people on fire when there are failures. In these environments managers will keep a very very tight reign on their employees so that they stick to the plan. This significantly reduces risk but generally makes the employees unhappy and basically eliminates innovation. But from the manager's point of view everything will run smoothly and bonuses will be forthcoming. This would come under the general heading of "Don't rock the boat."

Re:Conglomerate much? (1)

BarbambiaKirgudu (2578457) | about a year ago | (#43411129)

Just curious: how do you know Google does not set its employees on fire for "less-than-hugely-successful" projects?

Re:Conglomerate much? (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#43411675)

If they are all basically told to spend a good chunk of their working week on their own projects then the failure rate must be astronomical. If failure was not an option then they would have to be flogging their employees nearly all the time (or have an unlikely high success rate), in which case we would hear about how stupid this system is. Instead we hear how cool it is, even from ex-employees. Now when the larger projects flop I suspect that there might be some blowback.

I have read that this kid that Yahoo just hired for a bajillion dollars almost had nothting to do with the thing that they thought he did. While he is potentially set for life, I suspect that some Yahoo heads are going to roll right out the door. There is being daring and then there is being stupid.

Re:Conglomerate much? (1)

BarbambiaKirgudu (2578457) | about a year ago | (#43412285)

1. Why "go ahead and spend as much of your worktime on your own project as you like ..." cannot also mean "... but if your project fails you shall pay dearly"? Nothing against Google. Purely logical and hypothetical question. 2. It is established that in actuality not everyone is happy with Google jobs, by the way: [] 3.a. If someone comes to a gas station and buys a powerball ticket, which hits a jackpot, such outcome will not depend on whether the idea to buy that ticket was her own or she got inspired by collaborative brainstorming with coworkers and whether her manager was good or bad. The outcome is just sheer luck. Moreover, the successful outcome in her case does not even mean that buying that ticket was necessarily a good idea in general as tens of millions of less successful powerball players constantly learn. 3.b. In the same vein, the fact that many (in accordance with the message which started this discussion) tried to replicate Google' culture and failed to benefit from it rather indicates that Google financial success is not really a result of its culture.

60s era thinking (5, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | about a year ago | (#43411063)

I used to work at General Atomics's original campus in La Jolla, which was created in the 60s.

The campus was mainly a series of concentric circles. The main circular building had a curvature which was "calculated" to maximize random interactions with scientists and engineers outside your normal working group while also giving an illusion of working in a small group. There were pools, gyms, baseball fields and support buildings around the outside and along the radial lines. The center of the circle was a large cafeteria.

This was all great as long as nuclear power was going to save the world and money was rolling in. When the company hit hard times the ball fields were turned into office rentals and many non essential services were stopped.

When the company once again was making money with military hardware, the new buildings were simpler and located in a less expensive area of San Diego.

Keep Them Blinkers ON! (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43411191)

Really? How does isolating workers so they only ever interact with other members of their teams help an organization?
And how is meeting people who are working on different projects and may already have thought of some of the ideas that haven't dawned on you yet harmful?

Not true! (2)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43411305)

The best idea's are one that just come to you, I can't even count the number of times I've figured out the missing part to a piece of code well eating dinner or having a beer. People that claim it's better to sit down and put all your mental energy into one task are just fooling themselves, they don't want to admit that it's better to just relax and let the ideas come to you. If you have to over think a solution it's not worth it. Google has created a system where employees are free to think openly and freely and at the same time who aren't forced into cubical's / offices and made to work pointlessly. Most if not all the projects I work on, I work on this way, I still get everything done in the same deadlines and I produce the same if not better work overall.

Another yahoo bashing story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411599)

In every single company I've worked for, across many industries, physical presence and chats by the coffee machine led to the best collaborations. This worked in localization, software engineering, strategy consulting, and telecoms. This also worked in small business, large multinationals, Asia, US, and European companies...

The article is just another story bashing Yahoo for getting rid of teleworking probably written by someone who works from home banging out articles, and not collaborating. I'm all for innovation... and completely against teleworking because in my experience spanning more than a decade of collaborative innovation across all kinds of workplaces and industries shows that spontaneous creativity is never something that happens without multiple people giving input which is fostered best by casual / chance encounters.

This just doesn't happen when you sit in your jammies at home.

Teleworking is only really useful for production jobs that don't require physical presence and which are compensated through results achieved as opposed to hours worked.

Data please! (1)

aeortiz (1498977) | about a year ago | (#43411779)

The data presented as evidence in TFA are about productivity and telecommuting. The data presented against the author's point aren't, they're about creativity and innovation. He's comparing apples and SUVs.

I have yet to see a study that says that telecommuting improves innovation in a company.

I think the author is missing the point here, that Google is more concerned about innovation than straight productivity. They know that if they don't innovate, they will go the way of Yahoo!.

Re:Data please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43411949)

Indeed. But honestly I couldn't be bothered to read all the way after I noticed that the author's supporting articles are others that he has written.

Bad fit for Google also? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year ago | (#43411965)

Other than Google's core advertising business, Google are not that great. Docs, drive, whatever they call it is very poor quality.

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