How Google Works – Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works – Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

If any of you pick this book “How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg thinking of understanding how the Google search engine works, be well warned that this book is not about the search algorithm, but something much beyond that and much more important than that.

The book talks about the culture that makes the company Google what it is; the culture that is the driving force behind the employees of Google, that aids them to think big and innovate.

This books comes out with stunning revelations about the Google culture, with an open call to other companies and entrepreneurs alike to make use of what makes Google tick.

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  1. The authors have been candid about their success principles, what worked for them and what failed.
  2. Very easy to read and understand without the usual jargon that fill business books.


As is my norm, let me list out some of the most striking takeaways from the book. Early in my career, when I moved from a Central Govt. research organization, where we counted the CLs and ELs meticulously, to a private concern, where one could take leave for up to two days continuously any number of times without having to produce any proof, I was surprised. Not only was I surprised at the principle, but also at the fact that almost everyone respected it and none misused it. Today, as I understand people much better, I appreciate the wisdom behind that principle. I found the same kind of wisdom in most of the principles listed in this book.

  1. Seek out the Smart Creatives: Somewhere in the introduction, the authors define the term “smart creative”. This is a subset of knowledge workers whom Google actively seeks to recruit. In my opinion, this and this alone can make a huge difference to any organization. An excerpt from the definition of smart creatives:

    They are not confined to specific tasks. They are not limited in their access to the company’s information and computing power. They are not averse  to taking risks; nor are they punished or held back in any way when those risky initiatives fail. They are not hemmed in by role definitions or organizational structures …

  2. Don’t listen to the Hippos: What Hippos? Before you start wondering, let me hurry to add that a Hippo is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Google believes that when it comes to the quality of decision-making, pay level is intrinsically irrelevant and experience is valuable only if it is used to frame a winning argument. Google is not a “tenurocracy”, but a meritocracy. It is the quality of the idea that matters, not who suggests it.
  3. Dress Code: In India, for some reason, we are so obsessed with dress code that we do not mind even if it is impractical. If you have been to school/college in Tamil Nadu, you will understand what I am talking about. This extends to workplaces and these days IT companies are also not exempt from it. How we like to rule over what people wear! It does not matter how good a person is in his/her work, as long as he/she turns up in formals/sarees. In the sweltering heat of the country, even though one has to commute several kilometres, not always by car, one is expected to wear “appropriate” and uncomfortable clothes. I wish the heads of colleges, particularly engineering colleges, read this book and take a leaf out of it. Google’s principle in this:

    Dress according to the circumstances of your day and recognize who you will be with.

    Eric was once asked at a company meeting what the Google dress code was. ” You must wear something” was his answer.

  4. Default to open: The authors argue that keeping the default to “open” than “closed” in matters of sharing intellectual property, research results, communication and resources aids in growth. It spurs greater innovation.
  5. Establish a culture of Yes: Just like the parental habit of the reflexive ‘no’,  organizations have a way of saying no to most ideas or suggestions. Smart creatives cannot and do not thrive in a no-no environment. Let alone the explicit no, we have subtle ‘no’s in the form of long processes to go through to get certain new ideas started.

    My first word of advice is this: Say yes. In fact, say yes as often as you can. Saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to new experiences, and new experiences will lead you to knowledge and wisdom … -Michael Hogan (former President, University of Connecticut)

“With freedom comes power” is what I felt after reading through the book.

I had a tough time picking out a few gems from this book, because the whole book is a takeaway. If you are an entrepreneur or if you head a company in any industry, not necessarily IT, this book will give you valuable ideas. If you manage a group of people, this book will tell you how you can improve on it.

This is not an abstract version of a few management principles, but a disclosure of how they do it. Starting from hiring and interviews to email culture, many things that matter are put down in detail with the reason behind the principle.

This book goes to my handy reference section.

Treasure Trove!

About Menaka S

Menaka is a computational linguist by education, an optimist by attitude and a dreamer by how she spends her time. Being left-brained, she runs PlusMinus'n'More to indulge her right brain interests.

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