Book Reviews

Book Review: “How Google Works”

Review written by Silas Grant –

This is book number 7 for the second half of 2020 for me. “How Google Works” gives readers a look into the way Google operates as a company straight from the mouths of the horses who’ve built Google into the indispensable company it is today. In terms of being indispensable, that very description is what caused the leaders of the Google to write this book. At the very end of the book, they make it clear that no company is actually indispensable. The bigger the company, the more likely it is to become complacent and risk-averse. So it seems that the authors wrote the book as a reminder to themselves to remain aware of the need to be on the cutting edge of providing value to its users.

The concept: The book is an inside look at what makes Google tick. The book describes the culture, mindset, and priorities of “Googlers” (Google employees). The book uses several examples of projects and products that the company took on to showcase characteristics of the company that were required to either get those things done or display the courage to scrap them.

Key takeaways:

Talent – Many people have seen TV segments and read articles about the social aspect of the Google campus. But the authors make it clear: salaries and perks aren’t what keep people around. What makes Googlers happy is the ability to have autonomy on projects, freedom to disagree and project their opinions, and the ability to take on new, large, risky projects. At Google, it is not about competing with other companies; meaningful work is defined by the end result changing the landscape in which we all live. Having the right talent is the only way to ensure that Google remains on the cutting edge.

“The Smart Creative” – This term is used all throughout the book to describe the ideal Googler. This term describes the ones with the deep technical knowledge in how to use the tools of the trade. This person is analytical. This person is comfortable with data. This person is capable of making decisions. This person is business smart. This person is competitive. This person understands the product as well as the product’s user. All in all, “The Smart Creative” is well-rounded and the chief executive of his/her career.

Speed – The book describes a time in which decisions were always a risk because there was such a cost associated with each decision. Modern times, connectivity, and technology have caused investments in projects not to be as costly as before. The concept of managers saying “no” by default to any ideas is rooted in the past. Google suggest that speed is important. “Ship and Iterate” is a concept used within the company. The book gives examples of concepts that were “shipped” to market and Google improved on the concepts after going to market. Some may make the mistake of believing that a bad concept/project could slip through because another great concept/project gets through without being complete. Google spends time focusing on the quality of the project and its impact even if iteration has to occur. Once a project is determined to be “bad”, it is starved. The company only feeds the great.

Consensus – One excerpt from the book says it best: “The right decision is the best decision, not the lowest common denominator decision upon which everyone agrees. And it’s not always your solution”.

This book has many tips and strategies about organizational duties, meetings, decision-making, and other day-to-day responsibilities that have to be considered. If you are looking to be innovative in your workplace, this is a good book to read.

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