10 Leadership Lessons from Google: What Leaders Can Learn from the Top Company to Deliver Massive Results
Our founders built Google around the idea that work should be challenging, and the challenge should be fun. - Google
Few companies in history have exerted such a big influence on people’s lives and become as indispensable as Google, to the extent that we no longer search for information on the internet but we google it. It’s no coincidence that Google has become the most popular search engine in the world, starting as one of many others.
So what can we learn in terms of leadership lessons from Google which is the most powerful tech company in the world?
As Google is one of the most innovative and disruptive technology companies of the past few decades, we’d love to share with you some of the most effective and significant leadership lessons to help you make your business stronger.
Table of Contents
- 1. Focus on the End-User
- 2. Think Long Term
- 3. Implement the OKR System
- 4. Think Big
- 5. Engage in High-Risk and High-Reward Projects
- 6. Create the Culture of Innovation
- 7. Hire Smart and Creative People
- 8. Give Plenty of Freedom and Accept Failure.
- 9. Give Power to People with the Highest Impact
- 10. Build a Platform
1. Focus on the End-User
Very rarely does the sheer desire to make money lie at the bottom of really exceptional companies. Undeniably, Google as an unconventional company from the very beginning doesn’t perceive serving end-users as cliche which sounds good and is created just to attract investors. In fact, making end-users happy is the key cornerstone around which everything else is organized.
Actually, Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google, originally started as a Stanford University project, not to become millionaires and earn zillions of dollars, but to “instantly deliver relevant information on any topics” and “improve the lives of as many people as possible.” According to the Letter from the Founders called "An Owner's Manual" for Google's Shareholders, Google co-founders stated that “serving our end users is at the heart of what we do and remains our number one priority.”
Even today, so many years later, Google still follows this tenet by regularly updating its ranking algorithms to make its search engine better and better at delivering the best possible search results to its users. Those algorithms’ updates cause plenty of headaches among SEO specialists, but at their very core is always the welfare of the users as Google’s primary aim is to meet the needs of users as perfectly as possible by customizing search results to provide perfectly relevant and well-matched information.
With that in mind, leaders should follow suit Google founders by constantly reassessing how they can improve their services or products and try to foresee what their users/customers expect and need. As a leader, how often do you think about the fundamentals of your business? When was the last time you thought about what particularly you can do as a company to make your products/services even better adjusted to your users/cunsumers’ needs?Back to top
2. Think Long Term
It may sound like a bromide, but how many people do you really know who actually think long term on a daily basis and make decisions with the focus on the distant future, namely, 10 or 20 years ahead? It seems like this should be the norm, but is it really? In business, plenty of executives are talking about the long-term perspective as it sounds great and looks good from a PR point of view, but astonishingly few business people implement this principle in their daily lives.
Unlike typical CEOs, Google executives have always had a very long-term perspective from day one, never giving up their long-term strategy for short-term gains. Even many years ago, in 2004, when Google was going public, its co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, knew that their company's success would be based on long-term thinking. In the Letter from the Founders called "An Owner's Manual" for Google's Shareholders, they highlighted that they were not willing to succumb to Wall Street pressure favorable to small, but predictable gains, preferring to take on risky ventures which can lead to more unpredictable, but substantially larger returns. As they stated, “if opportunities arise that might cause us to sacrifice short term results but are in the best long term interest of our shareholders, we will take those opportunities.”
However, the majority of CEOs tend to choose a different route as they are not able to oppose tremendous pressure from various sources, including public investors, as well as their own boards, and their executive teams. Instead of a long-term strategy, they usually concentrate on short-term earnings, usually quarterly. It happens even if they are aware that “there is growing evidence that long-term thinking pays off much better in the long run. Solid long-term strategies executed well help businesses leapfrog the competition, create jobs, build public trust, improve the environment, and richly reward shareholders,” as Wharton Executive Education stated in their “Nano Tools for Leaders.”
So why do plenty of companies, both startups, and large companies, go out of business at an increasing rate? Most times, the main reason for a business failure is the short-term thinking of their top executives. But the question is why they persistently stick to short-term thinking while long-term thinking is widely showcased as the key to success? The answer to this question might be the average length of the C-suite members’ tenure.
According to the report prepared by Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, the average C-suite member’s tenure is 4.9 years which is a relatively short period, especially in terms of the company's goals, long-term growth, and vision. Consequently, most companies operate on the basis of short-term time horizons resulting from 4 or 5-year business plans instead of 20-year ones, focusing on short-term revenue and losing the long-term vision.
During the interview with Vinod Khosla at the KV CEO Summit, Larry Page summed up this point as follows: “Leaders are pretty short-term focused. I think the 4-year horizon for the leaders is pretty difficult. It’s pretty difficult to solve big problems in 4 years. It’s pretty easy to do it in 20 years.”
Surprisingly, some executives of publicly held companies still focus on a short-term time horizon due to huge outside pressures from financial markets influencing their long-term strategy and decision-making process. Oftentimes, they decide to play it safe for fear of disappointing public investors by publishing less optimistic financial results. As a result, those public companies don’t invest in risky ventures missing a lot of opportunities. It naturally limits their potential losses, but unfortunately it also immensely reduces their potential rewards, eventually decreasing their overall growth opportunities.
By contrast, Google has always been a company with a long-term orientation in mind since Google founders have always accentuated their readiness to take advantage of long-term opportunities even at the cost of missing Wall Street expectations. By adopting a strategy focused on long-term growth, high-risk projects, and big future payoffs, even at the cost of failures and short-term losses, Google has managed to leapfrog competitors and is leading the tech pack.Back to top
3. Implement the OKR System
Seasoned corporate managers know that corporate life is based on the underpromise-overdeliver notion so they create objectives that appear challenging but are actually effortless to achieve. As a result, their goals are neither too easy nor too difficult, creating perfect scorecards at the end of the quarter and year and making them look good in the eyes of their superiors, which leads to further promotions. This corporate game is played all over the world and few have enough fortitude to stand up to it as it serves many of its participants.
By contrast, Google has introduced a completely different approach based on the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system implemented at a very early stage of the company by John Doerr, an early Google investor, and venture capitalist, and author of the book “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs.” The OKR system is based on the premise that the big-picture and strategic objective is effective only when it is measured against a quantifiable result determined by a specific number. For instance, the objective is to "Improve the relationship with our main customers", while the key result linked to it might be: "Make 15 phone calls with your main customers to understand their preferences."
While objectives ought to be aspirational, key results must be clear, measurable, time-bound, verifiable, aggressive, but realistic. In the OKR system, key result’s requirements are so well-defined and clear-cut that there is no gray area or room for vague interpretation; you either meet them or you don't. Marissa Mayer, former Google Vice President and former CEO of Yahoo! said, “It’s not a key result unless it has a number.” As it's hard to argue with numbers, key results typically include numbers that make them more concrete, unequivocal, and easily verifiable which usually happens at the end of the designated period, usually, a quarter is the end date to announce key results accomplishment, eventually leading to objectives.
The idea behind the OKR system is that objectives must be big, aggressive, almost unattainable as their role is to inspire and motivate while key results should be ambitious but still realistic. However, hitting 100 percent on your objectives is not a thing to boast about as it means that you have set them too low. As a result of this reasoning, a 70 percent score on a well-constructed OKR is often better than a 100 percent on a less challenging one. In the traditional corporate world, this premise may seem strange, but Google is anything but conventional so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Most importantly, the scores on the OKR performance aren’t correlated with bonuses, rewards, or promotions so employees aren’t afraid to set objectives really high as they know that even when they fail to meet them, it won’t influence their career or finances negatively. As a result, the whole teams’ efficiency is extremely high as it is not limited by some strange fear of failure.
What is worth highlighting, all Googlers keep their objectives and key results public, even the CEO, so employees are aware of who is responsible for what and who relies on their work results which leads to mutual accountability, team alignment, and eventually, exceptionally high performance.
Generally, this unique goal management system ties employees' goals to a larger team’s mission, helps everybody stay on top of deadlines, and adapt to circumstances by promoting feedback and celebrating victories, both large and small. Although, the most important thing is that it expands horizons, pushing teams to strive for what may seem beyond their reach. The key role of the OKR system is to “ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization.”Back to top
4. Think Big
Google is known for encouraging and pushing its employees to take on new challenges, place big bets and challenge the status quo without considering the competition. Omitting rivals as a baseline enables Google to forget what is possible and what is not, allowing them to define it by themselves and ultimately think bigger than anyone else.
Larry Page’s take on it is that it's challenging to make people high-flying and exceedingly ambitious as “they tend to assume that things are impossible, rather than starting from real-world physics and figuring out what’s actually possible.”
According to Page, it's hard to come up with examples of remarkable companies that have just followed in the footsteps of their competitors, largely because it's not exciting to only do things 10% better as opposed to 10 times better. Non-innovative companies tend to follow the crowd with only a few small tweaks, which usually leads to stagnation, downgrading, and ultimately bankruptcy.
As Google co-founder put it in an interview with Steven Levy, editor-at-large of “Wired,” “It's natural for people to want to work on things that they know aren't going to fail. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there's going to be non-incremental change.”
By following this tenet, Google has gained momentum and managed to push the envelope more and more as “moonshot thinking” has always been encoded in its DNA, mainly due to the approach of Larry Page, who has always believed that Googlers need to focus on some projects which are 10 times better than the competition, not 10% better. Of course, he also believes that there is a need to improve existing products one step at a time too, but “periodically, every n years, you should work on something new that you think is really amazing.”
As Google is a company adept at moonshot thinking, which is visible in the incredibly big goals that they set, their objectives are always a loadstar defining clearly where the company is heading. With the help of exceptionally creative and independent people they employ, they usually succeed. Obviously, they sometimes fail, as failure is part of trying new paths, but those failures always teach them important lessons.
In fact, it’s okay when objectives reflect a bit of blue-sky thinking and shoot for the moon serving as an effective execution tool, as you never know what is possible and what is not until you get it done, helping top management get rid of fuzzy thinking and reach for the stars.Back to top
5. Engage in High-Risk and High-Reward Projects
Natural human tendency is to avoid taking risks, making most people shun high-risk ventures, but as everybody knows, nothing ventured, nothing gained. In fact, the most venturesome projects typically bring the most profit and the highest rewards, therefore, companies ready to take chances eventually end up more successful than those always hedging their bets. However, only a handful of companies have enough fortitude to follow this path, while most businesses, even if they decide to change anything, make only incremental changes, but Google is definitely not one of them.
Since its very inception, Google has always been a game-changing company, always on the lookout for the next big thing, deeply believing in revolutionary changes, not incremental changes. In the introduction to the book “How Google Works”, one of Google's co-founders, Larry Page, clearly stated that “change tends to be revolutionary, not evolutionary. So you need to force yourself to place big bets on the future.”
Even though a lot of companies tend to play safe for the fear of failure, missing out on emerging new opportunities, Google has always been taking actions, some more speculative and audacious, and some less, but always with a grand goal in mind.
As Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote in the mentioned Letter from the Founders included in the Google prospectus, “we will not hesitate to place major bets on promising new opportunities. We will not shy away from high-risk, high-reward projects because of short-term earnings pressure.” That is the essence of Google’s approach to risk resulting in the pursuit of high-risk projects, which is a key to Google's long-term growth and success. Even though some of their bets haven’t worked out, some of them have done extraordinarily well; as a result, the company is constantly seeking out new opportunities. Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, encapsulated this brilliantly at the KV CEO Summit by saying, “If you are willing to make a number of bets, you’ve got a hope that some of them will pay off.”
Some Google projects had seemed to be infeasible, unrealistic, or even impossible before they were actually carried through. So let’s take Google Maps as an example. Could anybody imagine at the initial stage of that project that the goal of mapping the whole world would actually be doable? Presumably, at that time it sounded like a science-fiction story, but Googlers decided to play the odds, eventually succeeding and proving there is no impossible.
From today’s standpoint, Google Maps seems nothing extraordinary, but if somebody had questioned its viability and blocked it at the initial stage, we wouldn’t use it today. Yet Google is a very innovative and disruptive company that tends to verify what is possible and what is not. Therefore, if we decided to follow its co-founder’s, Larry Page, words: “So if the past is any indicator of our future, today’s big bets won’t seem so wild in a few years’ time,” we shouldn’t view any idea as too big until we check if it is really feasible.Back to top
6. Create the Culture of Innovation
“We believe that great, creative things are more likely to happen with the right company culture." - Google
To get a closer look at corporate culture, let’s start by defining what it is. As the authors of the Harvard Business Review article, titled “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture” put it, “Culture is the tacit social order of an organization,” determining what is accepted, rejected, encouraged, or discouraged within a specific group. All leaders should intentionally create a culture tuned with employees’ needs, values, and motivations, as it can generate massive amounts of energy toward a common goal, reinforcing the company’s performance.
Culture is a key element of each organization. The overall organizational culture of the company is a collection of common values, symbols, and ideas, uniting employees and helping them understand what a given organization stands for, in which direction it is going, how it functions, and what is its foundation. Dissecting outstanding organizations, it’s possible to notice that strong companies tend to have very strong and distinctive cultures.
Marissa Mayer put it splendidly in an interview at Stanford University, “Culture is the DNA of the company,” which is very hard to change. She also mentioned Google saying “When you are at Google, you know you are at Google, even if you took down all the logos, and changed all the colors, you would still know that you’re there, and the same thing is true for Facebook. You’ll find this true in a lot of really strongly cultured companies.”
With that in mind, all leaders, both startup founders, and large companies’ executives should have culture on their to-do list, as it is such a significant element in building their organizations. However, it’s not enough to write a lofty mission or value statement. Creating a work culture is a long-term process based on practical rules and solutions which are to influence employees’ lives on a daily basis, not empty slogans from the mission statement.
While so much has been said about the importance of culture, in most companies, culture is the last thing founders or managers think about, largely due to the fact that at the very beginning of any business venture, when so many things require immediate attention, culture seems to be the least pressing issue.
However, as Marissa Mayer emphasized, "culture is something that’s hard to change", especially in an established company, with established routines and behaviors, so it’s critical to properly define culture early in the company. At the start-up stage, it is still relatively easy to do it as start-ups typically don’t have any existing rules and everything is being created on the fly. This was the case with Google, where its casual culture has started to exist since the very beginning.
One of the core pillars of Google’s work culture is full transparency within the company, which manifests by opening up everyone’s calendar and sharing ideas between departments. Employees who know what their workmates are working on feel more responsible for each other’s work, which ramps up their overall performance.
By creating a flat organizational structure and open communication policy, Google has facilitated the idea of transparency even more, as the company encourages a free flow of opinions and ideas between all employees, regardless of the traditional corporate hierarchy. Googlers can share views directly with the CEO, not worrying about their direct managers’ reactions. In addition, not only are there no awkward or unwelcomed questions at Google, but the company also incentivizes employees to ask difficult and challenging questions in order to have a chance to answer them straightforwardly. On top of that, this approach’s influence on maintaining high employees’ morale, such questions can be a great source of fresh and novel ideas for future projects.
Companies with well-established cultures do great things, but failures also happen as culture is not a magical pill safeguarding companies against any mistakes. However, strongly cultured businesses, such as Google, don’t punish their employees even if they fail, which leads to higher risk tolerance and consequently better results. And most importantly, well-developed and aspirational cultures attract people who overdeliver, “and when that happens the bar gets set even higher,” which has held true for Google since its inception.
“This is an amazing combination of a corporate campus and a university playground.” Adam LashinksyBack to top
7. Hire Smart and Creative People
“There is a way to systematically hire better people than anybody else.” Sheryl Sandberg
If your goal is to disrupt the market and be a challenger if you want to innovate to deliver the most amazing products on the market, and if your plan is to be constantly ahead of the pack and outperform even yourself, you can’t rely on regular employees who need continuous guidance and strict rules.
You need to hire people who not only are incredibly smart and tech-savvy but are also creative and have an entrepreneurial flair. Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, in their book “How Google Works”, call them ‘smart creatives’. As they need a special type of leadership, very different from traditional one which typically stifles smart creatives and hems them in, you will need to turn your leadership principles inside out to attract them and make them stay in your company, but, as Google results show, it will pay off.
So what are the Googlers like? Let’s try to understand how smart creatives behave, what character traits they have, and how to recognize if someone is a ‘smart creative’ or not.
Smart creatives are experts in their realm of field, at Google that is computer science, who have a deep grasp of technical knowledge about the tools of their trade as well as a wealth of hands-on experience. However, the key is that they are primarily practitioners, not theoreticians, focused on turning ideas into real-life prototypes, as speculating is not enough for them and they need to see how their bold ideas work in real life.
Smart creatives are smart analysts who understand data and use it to make decisions; however, by constant questioning and not blindly accepting them, they are able to pick up on any fallacies.
Googlers also have a business mindset combined with high competitiveness, as they perceive technical expertise and product excellence as prerequisites for business success. Moreover, innovation is their middle name, which is coupled with a goal and greatness-driven nature, so they don't dream of a 9-to-5 job, realizing that they need to live and breathe work to achieve extraordinary things.
It is Googlers' nature to question the status quo and never accept things at face value, constantly searching for new methods of dealing with problems, believing they are the right people to find them.
What’s more, since they are very critical and inquisitive and view things differently, it is not uncommon for them to play devil's advocate in their own case which helps them come up with mind-blowing ideas making them true geysers of ideas. Generally, Google values, respects, and invests heavily in creativity, so most Googlers' shared characteristic is their incredible creativity as they’re expected to discover new solutions for issues and come up with creative ideas or new ways to do things.
Googlers are hard-to-beat opponents, as, unlike many people, they believe that each failure can give them something valuable, so they aren't afraid to fail. In fact, it's extremely difficult to stop them since even in the face of failure, they are able to get up, dust themselves off and move on to win the next battle.
Furthermore, being self-driven and self-directed, Google employees don't just rely on instructions and take action on their own initiative instead of waiting to be told what to do, or sometimes they even ignore directions if they disagree with them. However, they are not only self-driven, but also very collaborative. As Google has so many employees, they need to be able to collaborate with each other very effectively by judging ideas and analyzing them on their merits, not their origin.
While you know what type of people belong to the Google tribe and are building its success, the true challenge is not only to attract such employees but also to keep them and learn to manage them as they are not regular employees. They are able to achieve big goals and do extraordinary things, but they also need a completely new model of management, which is why you can’t tell so incredibly smart people how to think. They already know full well how to do it, but they do need the right environment to do it on a consistent basis. If you want to employ people similar to those who work at Google “you have to learn to manage the environment where they think. And make it a place where they want to come every day,” according to the book “How Google Works.”
As “smart creatives are most attracted to ideas that are grounded in a strong strategic foundation,” to attract and keep the best of the best, you need a culture based on core company values which are not only merely slogans, but real-life guiding principles the company is genuinely built on and fundamental beliefs actually functioning in the company. When leaders manage to bring extraordinary people in, their intellectual capabilities and freewheel personalities will certainly drive the company to success.Back to top
8. Give Plenty of Freedom and Accept Failure.
At regular workplaces, employees are usually told what to do and freedom is the last thing they could expect from their managers, however, since Google employees are independent and exceptionally intelligent thinkers, characterized by an out-of-the-box attitude toward their job, their managers are required to have an individual approach to their management.
The key pillar of this special approach is freedom as Googlers, unlike regular employees, are not very fond of organizational structures and don’t care too much about role descriptions, over and above the fact that they also hate stodgy and uninspirational managers and a dreary atmosphere. As Google employees need a great deal of freedom, both mental and physical, the workplace where they can thrive and be effective called Googleplex, ducks out of the definition of a typical office in terms of both work rules and workspace, making it everything but an average office.
The approach to management practiced at Google is quite unusual and can only be launched at companies where employees have a lot of ideas, initiative, and self-drive since such employees don’t need micromanaging and constant telling what needs to be done. Above and beyond, Google managers realize that their subordinates get bored easily and are prone to change jobs. Therefore, they promote creativity and open communication by encouraging their team members to create and exercise their ideas and, in case of a dispute, speak freely, take a stand, and express their sentiment during company meetings.
What’s more, Googlers know they have the freedom to try to solve any problem, no matter how big or even not related to their core responsibilities, that comes up and gets in the way of the company's success. Interestingly enough, the moment they notice the problem, they don’t wait for orders but immediately get down to work and start looking for solutions to eliminate it as quickly as possible. Consequently, the results are delivered much sooner than in a normal company, where it would take weeks or even months instead of days, ramping up the overall productivity.
As Nelson Mattos, a former Google's first-ever vice president for engineering responsible for the company’s activities in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, put it well in the YouTube video titled “Culture Inside Google,” “what makes Google different from every other organization in the world is its internal cultures. It’s the freedom that we give to our employees to pursue their own ideas, and it’s the fact that we treat everyone the same.”
Due to Google’s venturesome and entrepreneurial culture full of challenges, inventiveness, business-mindedness, and acceptance of failures, Googlers are inclined to take part in risky initiatives, even though they are aware that some of them may fail. As a matter of fact, they know that failing isn’t bad, actually, quite the opposite. It’s something that helps them find a better and more effective way to the right solution and eventually to success. However, Google peers have a chance to think this way since they are not held back or punished for their mistakes, nor is their professional development impeded in any way.
Considering that Google's management style is based on freedom and responsibility, forcing employees to do overtime by carrot and stick approach isn’t necessary. But why? The answer is very simple. When you make people accountable for the things you tasked them with, it will motivate them to do what it takes to complete them. As the authors of the book “How Google Works” explicitly stated, “tell them to own the things for which they are responsible, and they will do what it takes to get them done. Give them the space and the freedom to make it happen.” In fact, Google has gone even one step further and allowed employees to spend 20% of their work time on independent projects which they find interesting and worth pursuing.
It’s worth emphasizing that culture is the backbone of Google's success since it doesn’t stifle employees’ initiatives but incentivizes them to take on risky projects. It isn’t a common approach, but the company’s leaders know that true breakthrough innovations and headway are usually made by pushing the envelope, not by standing still and maintaining the status quo. However, it can be achieved by creating a culture focused on providing employees with freedom of action and not bringing anybody to book for failures. Such a revolutionary approach is exceptionally rarely seen in typical companies where bonuses and awards are usually given to those who have the fewest number of blunders to their name.
Culture is crucial, but it isn’t omnipotent. It can’t create people’s personalities, behaviors, and attitudes from scratch. It can just help them be who they really are at their core. Particular cultures attract matching employees. To create the right culture and attract relevant employees, leaders need to first define what kind of people they want to collaborate with and what skills, attitudes, and behaviors they need to have to effectively achieve company objectives. An accounting office will need to attract people with a different set of skills and approaches than a tech startup.
In the case of Google, modeling its culture on Stanford academic background, the most desired traits are problem-solving, inventiveness, and independence, but it doesn’t need to be the best set of traits for each company as not each one is a technology company or has a plan to become one. Nevertheless, all leaders ought to create a unique set of skills, traits, and attitudes of their ideal employees aligned with their company’s goals, vision, and industry and later create a culture that will attract appropriate people well-suited to the future tasks and potential challenges.Back to top
9. Give Power to People with the Highest Impact
To build a really strong company, it’s essential to pin down who has the highest influence on the organization and the rest of the team. The first ideas many leaders could think of as decisive factors helping them find influential people would probably be experience and function; however, at Google, such qualities aren’t perceived as determinants of influence. Instead, passion and performance are considered the most critical in terms of impact assessment.
At Google, it is generally believed that people who run the company on the basis of performance and passion exert the biggest influence on the whole organization. So now, even if you know what you should pay attention to, you still need to be able to measure those traits, remembering that performance is fairly easy to quantify, but passion can be pretty challenging to do so.
Despite some existing challenges, great leaders may be tracked down. In fact, it’s enough to notice people whose mere presence always attracts a bunch of people gathering around them, putting them at its center, and choosing them to be leaders of any undertaking without even volunteering. To avoid missing out on true leaders, both titled and untitled, try to determine if people follow them voluntarily, even when not punished or rewarded. If they can do it, it’s an indication of true leadership skills.
But equally important is that the chosen individuals need to put the interests of others above their own as leaders who concentrate on their customers and employees' needs are much more successful and effective than those who are self-centered, egoistic, and concentrated not on the company’s success, but on their quarterly or annual KPIs just to get the highest bonus. Great managers and leaders primarily need to focus on the wants and needs of consumers and employees, forgetting about themselves. Only then can they achieve better performance.
Google managers realize that exceptional results can be achieved only by exceptional people. That is why Google as a company is open to people who are extraordinary, unrivaled, or even quirky. They call them “divas.” Contrary to common assumptions, “divas” shouldn’t be fired, but protected as their achievements may be groundbreaking. But how to know if somebody is a “diva” or not?
Generally, it’s very easy to miss out on the unique value of divas, as the most eye-catching character traits of divas are quirkiness, snootiness, and a giant ego. However, Google executives are able to recognize divas as they know that “divas think they are better than the team, but want success equally for both,” as was nicely put in “How Google Works.” The company is aware of divas’ merit, constantly looking for them and protecting them in case of troubles since they can be extremely valuable due to their tremendous contributions, unique view, creativity, and this elusive spark of genius as in the case of Steve Jobs, who was one of the biggest business divas in the world. So maybe instead of rejecting all weirdos at the very beginning, try to spot their potential? Maybe they will turn out to be undiscovered gems and change-makers who can lead the company to new territories and eventually victory.Back to top
10. Build a Platform
The most successful companies, such as Netflix, Facebook, and Google, to name but a few, are all platforms. Unlike typical businesses, their objective is not only to make profits but to create their own networks and communities. By providing space that benefits all its members, platforms enable collaboration and help their members facilitate their contacts, and eventually help to sell highly targeted and outstanding products or services.
According to the consulting company, Deloitte, “a platform business is a business model that focuses on helping to facilitate interactions, both short-term or long-term, across numerous participants.” The platform’s goal is to help its participants achieve desired outcomes by providing a set of standards, protocols, and infrastructure so that interactions are carried out at scale, eventually resulting in network effects.
Notice that Google, at its core, is a search engine being the most renowned platform which has shaken the world by connecting content producers with information seekers. But what’s more, the company also provides a numerous array of various platforms such as Google Drive, Google Calendar, Blogger, YouTube, Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google AdSense, Google Play, and Google Maps. The mentioned platforms create a perfect ecosystem of complementary services that are designed to meet the users' needs by offering them so many options that participants hardly feel the need to leave them.
In fact, the platform business model is based on the notion that not only a platform benefits its users, but the users add value to the platform as well. Even though building highly specialized platforms requires technical knowledge, this business model is not restricted to one industry, namely technology, but it can be applied, basically, in any industry, such as retail, travel, or media. Very good examples of companies based on platforms that have disrupted their traditional markets are Airbnb, Uber, Spotify, or PayPal whose success stories exemplify how this business model is powerful and can be a real game-changer if launched in the right way and at the proper moment.
As Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist, put it, “in the economy we’re in now, if you’re not a platform, you’ll be commoditized,” thus he perceives building platforms as a strategic necessity. His venture capital firm, Union Square Ventures, has in its portfolio investments such as Twitter (microblogging and social networking), Zynga (gaming and social networking platforms), Tumblr (microblogging and social networking platform), Kickstarter (global crowdfunding platform), Foursquare (location and data cloud platform), Etsy (e-commerce platform), and MongoDB (source-available cross-platform document-oriented database program). His investments speak for themselves.
What’s more, Fred Wilson contends that Google will defeat Yahoo and Microsoft since plenty of companies have invested so much money and time in Google's platform, it is plausible they will remain loyal to it, according to “What Would Google Do?”
Knowing all that great leaders who are looking for the next big thing and planning to conquer the world should take a closer look at platform opportunities and take a challenge to create their own platform. Even though it’s easier said than done, you can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is it possible for you to function as a platform?
- What can you do to act as a platform?
- What are your options for serving as a platform?
- What role can you play as a platform?
- What do you need to do to become a platform?
- As a platform, what can you offer?
- How can others use your platform?
- Are there any other platforms that could be built on top of yours?
- What can you do to add value?
- What is the potential size of the network on your platform?
- What are the limits to the scale of your network?
- Will your platform be able to support millions of users?
- What can be done to make the platform more user-friendly?
- How can the platform learn from its users?
- What can the platform do to get users to contribute to it?
- Is it possible to create an open network so that even competitors could use and contribute to your platform and share value with it?
Google is one of the world's most powerful companies, but they didn't become that way by luck, but through years of experience combined with constant iteration, relentless dedication, consistent collaboration, and spotless execution. Even though their product wasn’t very innovative as there were some other search engines on the market, their approach to business certainly was.
The story of Google development is so inspiring, educational, compelling, and full of so many immensely useful business lessons that it’s even difficult to enlist all of them. Hopefully, the leadership principles and lessons presented in this piece will add value and help you become a more and more successful and effective leader and build a company at least as powerful as Google.
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Author: Justine Ilone Siporski is Editor-in-Chief & CEO of BUSINESS POWERHOUSE, the founder and CEO of LANGUAGE EMPIRE, coach, trainer, investor, and columnist dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurs, investors and the C-suite (CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, CIOs). Her key mission is to support leaders, business people, and investors in achieving their highest potential, making the right business and investing decisions, and expanding their horizons.