What Would Google Do?
Book Review (1) by
Davi dos Santos Marques
Emil Leite Ibrahim
Paulo Vinicius Petrix Marcial Monteiro (2)
Branca Terra (3)
The book was written by Jeff Jarvis: a journalist, professor and creator of the most respected popular blog on the web, called BuzzMachine, where he posts articles addressing the impact the digital age is having on the media, business and society. He also writes a column for the British newspaper, The Guardian. In 2007 and 2008, he was named by the World Economic Forum, in Davos, as one of world’s top 100 media leaders and he was the creator and editor of Entertainment Weekly. He teaches at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, in New York City.
Chris Anderson, author of “The Long Tail”, says that “Google is not just a company, it is an entirely new way of thinking ( … ). Jarvis has done something really important: extend that approach to business and culture, revealing just how revolutionary it is”.
In the opening chapter, called “WWGD?”, echoing the question that is the title of the book, the author points out that ‘Google is the organization that is currently best able to sustain itself and thrive in the face of the enormous challenges thrown up by the Internet age’.
For many years, the most successful companies were those that controlled content and distribution, seeing customers as assets and paying out a fortune in marketing to attract and hold onto their audiences and consumers. It would have been impossible to imagine, not so very long ago, that young people with cameras and Internet connections would be able to draw a multitude of viewers that exceeded the audiences of the television networks, that people without any academic training could set up companies that would be worth billions, or that enterprises could quickly go bankrupt because of spreading complaints from their consumers. The fact is that the profound transformations wrought by the Internet were not properly understood by many people, companies and institutions. However, surviving and prospering in a complex and confusing environment demands more than just breaking the existing rules, it requires understanding the rules of this new world and acting accordingly. The author claims that Google’s founders turned it into an outstandingly successful organization because they understood the change brought about by the Internet and made their decisions based on that new reality, whereas a number of once-powerful organizations quickly collapsed, because they insisted on playing by the old rules.
Based on the Google philosophy, which takes a fresh look at society and the economy, the book identifies these new social and commercial foundations arising out of the digital age, which are radically changing the lives of the population, politicians, organizations, the media and government. What is more, having interpreted the set of principles underpinning the Google wisdom and its new worldview – which goes beyond technology and business – Jeff Jarvis seeks to illustrate how these rules can be applied to companies, sectors or institutions, in order to answer the fundamental question “What would Google do?”… analysing each area of activity and thinking about how to act differently. It is a kind of benchmarking, guided by understanding of the new reality and that it is, therefore, not limited to copying what Google does, but trying to see the world through Google’s revolutionary eyes. This is essentially a book about the changes taking place in the world and it uses the Google platform and thinking as the basis for a new form of conduct by organizations that are seeking success.
That is followed by a chapter entitled “Google Rules”, where the author describes the new rules that we should live and do business by. Understanding the new social and economic structure is key to meeting the modern challenges, finding opportunities, and coming up with solutions. Google understood the change that was coming via the Internet, and has been hugely successful because it sees the world differently, based on these rules that govern the new age.
In the next chapter, entitled “New Relationship”, there are a number of subheadings: “Give the people control and we will use it”; “Dell hell”; “Your worst customer is your best friend” and “Your best customer is your partner”. The first is considered an essential rule of the new era, since the great transformative power of the Internet and of Google is related to making connections between people and promoting relationships. What is more, the Internet has enabled every user, customer, voter, consumer, to speak to the whole world, disseminate information, challenge old ways and, in short, take back control. Now, when a business loses a customer, it runs the considerable risk of losing that person’s friends also, and on the Internet, with its blogs and forums, customers have friends all around the world. A complaint by a single consumer can be so widely spread over the world’s computer network that it can appear in Google’s search ratings and even compete with the brand on the first page of its search results. The author cites the DELL case, where the company’s reputation was jolted and its stock price shaken because of its refusal to listen to frustrated customers. An organization that does not listen, pay attention or empower its customers will very quickly see the storm spread.
In the chapter called “New Architecture”, the author addresses more subheadings: “The link changes everything”; “Do what you do best and link to the rest”; “Join a network”; “Be a platform” and “Think distributed” and through those he explains that a new architecture is being established in the production of information over the network; a two-way collaborative structure. Previously, companies thought as if they owned their customers, controlled the distribution, fought off competitors and hung onto their trade secrets. That old, concentrated model has been destroyed, because the present rule is to do what you do best and link to the rest. This fosters specialization, by allowing each one to focus his or her efforts and resources on what he or she produces at the highest quality and directs the search for ancillary or related information to other sites. Those links give rise to networks, connecting people to information, activities and other people. The process disdains centralization and promotes collaboration and transparency. The most successful companies in the digital age are platforms: Google, Facebook, Paypal, Flickr, WordPress and others. Networks are built on platforms that empower people and help them to generate value. And the more people can build on these platforms, using them to develop their own businesses, the better it will be.
In the next chapter, entitled “New Publicness”, he addresses the following topics: “If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found”; “Everybody needs Googlejuice”; “Life is public, so is business”; and finally, “Your customers are your ad agency”. Nowadays, most people will come to a product, service or something of interest through Google, so not being found in that search is almost equivalent to not existing. Developing “searchability” requires public exposure, a key attribute of successful companies. It means acting in public, with transparency, so that people can see what you are doing and react to it. From that public exposure will come your customers, who are, effectively, your own advertising agency. The book encourages people to eliminate advertising or, at the very least, dismiss their formal advertising agency, since, informally, they already have one in practice, acting through the customers who are their most effective advertising agency. The reasoning is that the more customers appropriate a brand the less the company needs to bother customers with advertising material. Companies need to turn their customers into the owners of their brands. Google became the fastest growing organization in history without using any marketing campaigns, since its evolution has been “by word of mouth”, from one user to another.
In the chapter called “New Society”, the author uses the subheading “Elegant organization” to say that the Internet is disrupting everything, because it provides so many connections that it has brought disarray, information chaos. However, where some see a new world disorder, others see an opportunity to provide organization. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, says that the way to help the existing communities is by giving them organization, elegant organization. That has been the strategy of countless success stories: Google helps organize searches, maps, documents, in a mission to organize the world’s information; Facebook facilitates the organizing of networks of friends; Linkedin enables the organizing of professional networks; eBay makes it possible to organize markets for goods; Flicks organizes photos; and Wikipedia, collective knowledge. The key point is that it is no longer necessary for governments, organizations or companies to organize the masses, as they once did, because now there are applications for people to organize themselves, overcoming the barriers, whether they be countries, companies or languages.
In the next chapter, entitled “New Economy”, the author addresses the subheadings: “Small is the new big”; “The post-scarcity economy”; “Join the open-source, gift economy”; “The mass market is dead – long live the mass of niches”; “Google commodifies everything” and “Welcome to the Google economy”. He refers to the new economic model introduced by the digital age. Once built upon scarcity and the masses, the economy now evinces abundance and a mass of niches. Companies built their values on the basis of scarcity, controlled a scanty resource and set their prices. Nowadays, at a distance, one can find an infinity of options that can be delivered to the home. The challenge has become sifting through and selecting from amongst everything one finds, in order to make the most beneficial choice. Choosing a hotel room or deciding what to watch on TV are good examples of how the logic of scarcity has shifted to one of abundance. Further on this new economy, the power conferred by the Internet to people who organize around their own networks, interests and desires has changed the mass-market model to an economy of a mass of niches. Advertisers, companies, politicians and media that have always benefited from regarding their customers as masses, boosted by economies of scale, have to realize that the mass-market is dead and has been replaced by a mass of niches. Each individual is attracted by what is convenient to him or her and online content creation tools are building a universe of endless options. In fact, there has been a paradigm shift, to specific target groups, with the power moving from the top to the base.
In the chapter named “New Business Reality”, the author presents the subheadings: “Atoms are a drag”; “Middlemen are doomed”; “Free is a business model” and “Decide what business you’re in”. He says that companies need to accurately identify the business they’re in. AOL and Yahoo lost their way because they failed to accurately perceive what business they were in. Google focuses on organization and knowledge and its profit comes from advertisements, because it is exceptional in conducting searches and can target the advertising with precision. The new era has sounded the death knell for middlemen, considers objects as things of the past and defines free service as a business model. Every time Google makes a direct connection, it reduces the importance of intermediaries. Realtors, travel agents and brokers depend on a controlled, inefficient market in which there is a monopoly of information and relationships. Nobody wants to deal with objects anymore. Atoms are inconvenient and expensive, need a place to store them and quickly become obsolete and useless. With bytes, that doesn’t happen.
The author cites the example of a printout of a text, which is already outmoded even before the ink is dry, since it cannot be adapted to the interests of each reader, does not offer any links, nor can it easily be searched or passed on. Additionally, one cannot compete with something that is free. Paying and receiving is laborious and costs money. The fastest growing markets are those that are free. Google realized the value of free service better than anyone else and has shown that it is often not necessary to own the assets that generate the money. It doesn’t want to own information and would like more and more content to become available online for free, so she it can increasingly organize it and attract people, for whom it can show advertising and build relationships.
In the chapter entitled “New Attitude”, the author presents the subheadings: “There is an inverse relationship between control and trust”; “Trust the people” and “Listen”. He says that the greater the control, the less trust consumers have in organizations. In the past, companies were built by imposing on their customers just what they could do, and didn’t listen to them. The Internet shifted the control to the customers, not only with regard to their choices, but also in the creative phase. Google provides an environment for individual preferences and has found value in trust: its algorithms attach greater importance to links that are shared than to those that are simply accessed. The new attitude is based on trust and the ability to listen to one’s customers.
In the chapter entitled “New Ethic”, the author presents the subheadings: “Make mistakes well”; “Life is a beta”; “Be honest”; “Be transparent”; “Collaborate” and “Don’t be evil.” He states that the new ethic values honesty, transparency and benevolence as corporate virtues. He asserts that perfection is expensive and that life is in a beta (testing/experimental) phase. A willingness to be wrong is an essential condition for innovation. Making mistakes is not as bad as acting as if one were perfect. The pursuit of perfection does not ensure error-free products and services, so admitting mistakes and making corrections increases one’s credibility and gives customers the confidence that future mistakes will also be corrected. Many claim that Google’s services will remain forever in beta. While Microsoft frequently launches products before getting them – almost – right, Google launches its products on the market and allows the users to help with their development, pointing out corrections and which paths to follow. Launching products and quickly adjusting them lends a company credibility and a reputation for agility, while strengthening and optimizing the product. It is preferable to do much and make rapid corrections than to take exaggerated care and produce little.
In the chapter called “New Speed”, the author uses the subheadings: “Answers are instantaneous”; “Life is live” and “Mobs form in a flash”. He says that Google has made people impatient, because it provides answers in fractions of a second. Live webcasts give people the ability to interact, influence events and even mobilize in an instant. Speed has now become a strategic necessity. Companies become better and better as they quickly respond to consumer desires. The Internet has altered the pace, rate and processes within the business sphere. Information is disseminated in an instant, regardless of the distance or the wishes of any given individual. What is more, when a customer is seeking an answer, it would be a good idea to have a way of listening and responding, unless you want a rival with a better and faster response to steal them away with a mouse click.
In the chapter called “New Imperatives”, under the subheadings: “Beware the cash cow in the coal mine”; “Encourage, enable, and protect innovation”; “Simplify, simplify” and “Get out of the way”, the author argues that the essence of the Google paradigm is to help people to produce what only they can imagine. Google believes in the wisdom of collective intelligence and gets out of the way. To that end, it seeks always to simplify. Compare the homepage of the Google search engine with a remote control, a radio, an insurance policy, the Microsoft toolbar, etc. Google’s programmers do not sacrifice simplicity for a feature of lesser importance, they just offer a box on a white screen, with no pollution, and leave everyone else behind. Stimulating, fostering and protecting innovation, in other words, having a culture of innovation, is much more than putting up a suggestion box or raising the topic in administration meetings. Ideas come from all over the place, but bureaucracy, organization charts and formal procedures compromise the production of anything new. Google’s technical staff have 20% of their time free to explore new ideas, new products and even new dreams. Innovation involves people with skills and how the organization nourishes them. It is necessary to encourage the employees to suggest new ideas, even if it means cannibalizing the organization – it’s better that way than competitors doing it, with the risk of losing the next generation of customers. Google’s purpose is straightforward: make innovation its primary business.
In the following chapter, “If Google Ruled the World”, the author relates how the rules presented above apply to activities, industries and institutions. Many companies are still analog, in a digital world that is here to stay, like an avalanche that has had a profound impact on the entire world. The author challenges the reader to think like Google and presents reality through a different lens, seeking to rethink, reinvent and see things in new ways.
Then, in the chapter entitled “Media”, under the subheadings: “The Google Times: Newspapers, post-paper”; “Googlewood: Entertainment, opened up” and “GoogleCollins: Killing the book to save it”, the author opines that the major newspapers today have settled for cash flow and do not try to learn about what their readers know, and for that reason they will fail. The demand for news is actually growing. Apart from new editions, books are also frozen in time: one cannot do a search in a printed format, there are no links and, like newspapers, once they have been written they tend not to be updated by the author, because a one-way relationship has been created. Books and printed newspapers contain words that will die out. The Internet is not going to destroy books or newspapers, it will improve them: they will become digital. The Internet is the new home delivery service for newspapers and changes the template by allowing contributions and corrections. Collaboration is co-creation that mobilizes readers to refine stories, share content and create new texts. In this way, the newspapers will gain new links, readers and added value. Books also need to be brought into the dialogue format. Digital books can be linked, searched and updated. Readers should be allowed to interact with the author and develop relationships, to the point that the creation itself is the result of a variety of exchanges. The author will no longer be isolated. That way, books can obtain a longer shelf life and win over new audiences.
In the chapter entitled “Advertising”, under the subheading “And now, a word from Google’s sponsors”, the author relates that the biggest change brought about by Google was in relation to the field of advertising. He shows how an endless number of locations for placing ads have appeared, as well as the creation of a new way of targeting advertising, which is much more efficient and focused on the mass of niches. Google’s business is advertising. One of the lessons is that financial resources can be obtained through the side door; in other words, an essential part of the services is offered for free and then money is obtained from other activities. The focus on the consumers and the people with whom they relate must be the focus of all efforts within the company, not outsourced to advertising agencies, as is so often the case. Advertising is effective when it reduces transaction costs, thus saving energy, time and money in the search for products that are of interest. Spending on advertising in newspapers or on billboards is antiquated. The relationship with the customer is the new advertising agency.
In the chapter entitled “Retail”, with the subheadings: “Google Eats: A business built on openness” and “Google Shops: A company built on people”, the author says that the location of a business was one of the factors that used to be considered most important in retailing. But now, what matters are links, Google and customer appraisals. Nowadays, stores need to be data driven. The more information an organization can obtain, the more useful its strategy and customer advice is likely to be. Major brands pay fees to supermarkets to be able to use their more profitable shelves and racks. A store in the new economy should seek to sell products that the consumer wants, not products that somebody pays them to sell. Retailers need to think about how to obtain and exploit the data their consumers can provide them with, whether through forums or direct contact. Think how useful it could be, for example, to have a grocery cart that makes recommendations to the consumer while they are shopping.
In the chapter on “Utilities”, using the subheadings: “Google Power and Light: What Google would do” and “GT&T: What Google should do”, the author states that the energy sector is a concrete example of an industry that is being effectively remodeled by Google. This is Google.org, which funds research on alternative energy sources, such as solar thermal, deep geothermal, photovoltaic and wind that uses high altitude kites, to produce energy at a lower cost than that of coal. But one could imagine a power company along Google lines. The Google Power and Light Company would use the power grid to provide Internet access and offer the lowest prices, with income obtained by alternative means, while providing data on the usage and expenditure on each item of equipment and creating a market for energy sharing. In the book he also reflects upon the adaptation of the cable and telecommunications industry to the new era. Companies in the industry today lay down a lot of rules telling customers what they cannot do: they cannot use as many TVs as they would like to, they cannot just subscribe to the channels they want, they cannot watch without a conversion device, they cannot do downloads above a certain limit, among other restrictions. The world of Google, as a platform, beyond making calls and watching a variety of movies and videos, would enable the creation, sharing and sale of content produced by its users. Furthermore, each customer’s data would be studied and the return would be in the form of recommendations. And, above all, the proceeds from advertising would reduce the prices charged for the service.
In the chapter on “Manufacturing”, under the subheadings: “The Googlemobile: From secrecy to sharing” and “Google Cola: We’re more than consumers”, the author analyzes the automobile market and its manufacturers, pointing out that there is no longer an atmosphere of anticipation surrounding the launching of a new model, as there once used to be. And it’s hardly surprising: manufacturers hide the development of new models as if they were secret projects, carrying out a game of hide and seek with journalists and specialist photographers who are seeking to uncover those secrets. The lack of consumer participation in the development of the automobile precludes the establishing of any dialogue that could radically alter the relationship between consumer and manufacturer. The designers could disclose their ideas over the Internet and open up the possibility of customer suggestions. The product would be discussed, argued over and linked into the network. Consumers could set up Facebook groups, blogs and discussion forums. In the end, we would have a vehicle design that had evolved through a collaborative community effort. Cars could become exciting once more, because they would be desired by their consumers and drivers, no longer a creation decided exclusively by the industry. The key to Googlemobile is passion, individuality, excitement, choice and novelty.
In the chapter entitled “Service”, with the subheadings: “Google Air: A social marketplace of customers” and “Google Real Estate: Information is power”, the author makes some suggestions about how to reorganize an airline. Such companies are today providing a service that has considerably deteriorated over the years. The model is based on overbooking. The companies crowd the planes with tight seats, derive income from excess baggage and everything – down to a glass of water – that they provide on the flight. They treat the passengers like cattle and carry them all in a kind of prison. But what if the passengers on an airplane did networking during the trip? What if the mileage programs were placed in an open market, as a virtual currency? What if last-minute passengers could buy tickets from other passengers on the company’s own digital platform? Imagine an online social network on board the plane. The key to reorganizing a business lies in respecting and handing over control and organization to the customers. BMW owners get together on Facebook, so those of the airline companies could do that too. They need to offer more than seats; there is enormous room to provide experiences and relationships.
In the chapter on “Money”, with the subheadings “Google Capital: Money makes networks” and “The First Bank of Google: Markets minus middlemen”, the author says that a bank is nothing more than an intermediary. One of the most significant transformations wrought by the Internet was to promote direct connections, eliminating middlemen. The advent of the Internet brought exclusive virtual banking, but greed did not allow them to offer incentives to attract account holders. Moreover, the financial institutions do not give their customers the set of spending information that they hold. This data, organized and shared, could contribute to the financial management of each client. Microlending between private individuals is already gaining pace. Websites such as prosper.com, kiva.org or donnorchoose.org, already facilitate loans and disbursements for donations to projects and causes. And why use the banking structures if we already have Paypal.com and Virgin Money to facilitate the exchanging of money between people? Moreover, the network already provides a wide range of analysis and information on markets and investments. Investors can share knowledge without relying on confused bank analysts.
In the chapter entitled “Public Welfare”, with the subheadings: “St. Google’s Hospital: The benefits of publicness” and “Google Mutual Insurance: The business of cooperation”, the author suggests that the health sector needs to evolve on the path to opening up information. The sharing of data on the vast number of patients around the world, their experiences and needs, would be valuable to the advancement of medical and pharmaceutical science. Extended communities of medical specialists could set up updated referral sites. At the moment, only limited samples are known. Such information would be of great use, including patients wanting to learn more about their treatment. Open standards would allow data to be organized and placed under the control of patients who could, for example, more accurately choose specialist care. If a restaurant in the digital age can inform the public of the number of orders for each dish on its menu, why can’t we know how often a doctor treats a certain type of illness? The author highlights good collaborative initiatives in healthcare, such as PatientsLikeMe and Google/Health, although there are still many limitations.
With regard to Google Insurance, the author’s preliminary assessment considered the insurance sector as one of the incurable areas, immune to Google change. It is a betting market. The industry is based on making customers bet wrongly (bets that the policyholders themselves would prefer to lose), imposes numerous difficulties on receiving on a claim and suspects that their customers are liars. In short, it is a relationship built on mistrust. Nevertheless, dozens of comments on the author’s blog – BuzzMachine – show how Google’s remodeling could be made to work in the insurance business, starting with the use of technology and setting up networks. What if control of the insurance was passed to the members of the community? What if many families organized themselves, as in a cooperative, so that each member acted to mitigate the risks to the other participants? What if technology reduced the costs to enable monitored vehicles to connect with drivers, roads and the police? What if an open information policy provided the customers with data on the insurers’ costs, expenses and actuarial factors? All this would establish a new reality in a field that is, in fact, essentially social in nature. So technology, market transparency and community control would reduce the intermediaries, increase the efficiency and improve confidence in the insurance market.
In the chapter on “Public Institutions”, under the subheadings: “Google U: Opening education” and “The United States of Google: Geeks rule”, the author says that education is one of the fields that most deserves to shatter the mold. The system works on the premise that the students are equal. The universities need to question how much value they attach to educational transactions relating to, for example, teaching qualifications, putting together a student curriculum, or providing a learning platform. Universities can become larger than their campuses: class time is precious, but nowadays there is no need to be in the same classroom as the professor and other students. Research skills and reasoning are more important than memorizing or calculating skills. The value attributed to diplomas and certificates, in a society where knowledge and needs change rapidly, seems absurd. Google provides the connection between those who want to know and those who know. So there seems to be no reason for students to limit themselves to a specific college, because they can produce online work for courses at Stanford or the MIT. By the same token, educators could select students from anywhere in the world.
The author proposes that education could be more like a club than a class where people register to learn and teach together, whether it be a real or virtual classroom. More important than memorizing is asking questions and seeking answers, satisfying one’s curiosity, appraising answers and the reliability of sources. Stop educating to follow routines and educate to meet challenges. Moreover, an educational institution should operate as an incubator, nourishing, advising and fostering students’ ideas, rejecting uniformity and giving them more responsibility. Google recruits people by assessing five skills: willingness to experiment, communication, teamwork, leadership and passion. Our education system is a long way from adequately preparing students to work at Google.
In the chapter called “Exceptions”, under the subheadings: “PR and Lawyers: Hopeless” and “God and Apple: Beyond Google?”, the author affirms that few activities are immune to Google thinking. Lawyers and public relations work are among them. They are intermediaries, represent clients, cannot be transparent, do not necessarily express their true opinion, and cannot adopt a true and coherent position, because they can find themselves representing opposing sides. In terms of organization, the only one, in the author’s opinion, that succeeded despite breaking the new age rules is Apple. It keeps control of everything, creates scarcity, is not collaborative, is not transparent, is not interactive, does not value free service and has a closed way of doing business. Even so, Steve Jobs’ brilliant vision and pursuit of perfection explains why Apple products work so well. There are nevertheless similarities to Google that should be emphasized. Apple values simplicity in its products, understands the power of networks and platforms, and can accurately pinpoint what consumers want.
In the chapter entitled “Generation G”, the author analyzes how the Google paradigm changes our lives and addresses the future of what is known as “Generation G”. The author points out that, while previous generations have used the Internet to look up old relationships, friends and communities, today’s youth has already had that connection since they were born. It will no longer be possible to escape from the past or to disappear, because the tracks will be there forever. Our circles of friendship will be cumulative, while our errors, failures and juvenile indiscretions will be more public and permanent. The Internet does not increase people’s creativity, but it allows the creations to be seen, heard and used. In other words, it enables each creation to find its audience, due to this enhanced “visibility”. Through it, we discover things we like and people who like what we do. Another characteristic of “Generation G” is the possibility of contributing much earlier to fundamental innovations, creating great companies, great technology and great thinking. Which is exactly what it has done! So, based on the doctrine of freedom of expression that the Internet promotes, “Generation G” will be able to organize without organizations and that will have a profound impact on nations. Digital connections enable people to organize, by-passing government, parties, companies and religions.
The book is based on Google rules that represent the foundations of the new society, based on connections, links, transparency, openness, trust, wisdom, platforms, networks, speed, abundance and visibility. The new generation will change the way we interact with the world and how organizations and governments relate to people. But, according to the author, all this is just beginning, and the Google avalanche will affect everyone!
- XVI International Triple Helix Conference 2018
- President’s Corner
- VIEWPOINT – Piero Formica
- Twelve Things That Can Drive Triple Helix in Pakistan
- Book Review
- Webinar Series
- Talks Series
- Chapter News
- New THA Members September 2017 – January 2018
- THA News
- Publication Opportunities