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Google Businesses

Google's Idea of Productivity Is a Bad Fit For Many Other Workplaces 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-not-try-this-at-home dept.
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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Google's Idea of Productivity Is a Bad Fit For Many Other Workplaces

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  • Google, eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:33AM (#43409871) Journal

    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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:07AM (#43410011) Journal

      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? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... m ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:49AM (#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? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Zeromous (668365) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @11:12AM (#43412381) Homepage

          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? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... m ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @01:14PM (#43413651)
            That's what you get when capitalism works properly. But there are major problems on two sides. First, companies like Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc... use intellectual property law to crush most of the bubbles forming down below. "If you can't beat them, sue them into oblivion for patent infringement." And every big company has a hand in lobbying legislators to get favorable legislation, from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) trying for SOPA and PIPA, to Comcast and Verizon trying to get township-funded broadband declared illegal in as many states as they can.

            Second, capitalism places profits above morals. Illegal acts are only a problem if the chance of getting caught multiplied by the expected legal and penalty costs for being caught exceed the costs of complying with the law. And legal but immoral acts (like using child labor overseas, or using a loophole in banking rules to improperly value a subprime mortgage) are expected. If your company doesn't ignore right in wrong in favor of profitable versus unprofitable, it will be crushed by other companies that do. This is why Walmart has large numbers of its employees on food stamps and Medicaid, so that taxpayers effectively subsidize their business model. This is why General Electric uses every tax trick in the book to pay very little taxes. This is why most of the clothing we buy is made in third world facilities.

            Again, I'm not saying socialism or communism or for that matter fuedalism or theocracy is better. Clearly they're all worse. But what we have now is still really bad.
            • by snadrus (930168)

              I'm very interested to know how "moralism" as a government/society form would work. I think they thought they were getting that with communism.

              • I'm very interested to know how it would work too.

                Just because I don't have a solution, that does not prevent me from defining a problem.
            • First, companies like Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc... use intellectual property law to crush most of the bubbles forming down below. "If you can't beat them, sue them into oblivion for patent infringement." And every big company has a hand in lobbying legislators to get favorable legislation, from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) trying for SOPA and PIPA, to Comcast and Verizon trying to get township-funded broadband declared illegal in as many states as they can.

              Let them [scribd.com].

              • Sorry, I didn't realise the Scribd version was paywalled--wasn't expecting that, silly me, seeing as the story is in the public domain...

                Here's an unemcumbered version [archive.org].

                • You're saying that little innovators will always find a way around the big juggernauts? I think you are too optimistic - for every Facebook and Google there are thousands of people working hard on brilliant ideas that get driven out of business by legal tricks instead of superior business models. If the big players aren't constantly terrified of every little new company that comes along trying to take the rug out from under them, there is something wrong.

                  Thanks for the link to the short story, by the way
            • by Zeromous (668365)

              >Second, capitalism places profits above morals

              DD, I'm not sure what you are getting at. No matter how much we wish it were the case, economies are not moralistic. They are neutral.

              >use intellectual property law to crush most of the bubbles forming down below

              This is part of the natural process. I can see how some perceive it as working too slowly.

              • I disagree. It's one of the cases where government intervention to help the market (patents and intellectual property law) has come to cause more drag than increase on innovation and competition.

                On a moral level (not a business level), theft of trade secrets is wrong. Patent infringement is wrong. Copyright and trademark abuse is wrong. But the mechanisms we have in place to combat these problems are a cure worse than the disease. A well-staffed legal department should never be a superior substitut
                • by Zeromous (668365)

                  Google and Facebook were Johnny come latelys. They were neither the first, nor will they be the last in their spaces.

                  Look in economics, wrong != illegal. Economies do not reward (im)moral behaviour. No amount of conflation with private/public companies will make this true. At the end of the day they are simply actors in a neutral economy.

                  • There is a right and wrong in economics, but it's not the same right and wrong as in philosophy. Right in economics are things that enhance the economy's growth, stability, or the rate of advancement of technology. Wrong is things that slow those aspects of the economy or reverse them. I contend that in terms of economics, our current intellectual laws and especially patent laws are more wrong than right.

                    I didn't mean that Facebook and Google were the first or the last to occupy their current position
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @05:50AM (#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 [wikipedia.org] 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 [boingboing.net]" (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: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "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, b

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

          Linden Labs (Second Life) tried this - and it was an abysmal failure.... Mostly because other elements of the culture tended to pressure developers into concentrating on quick wins and new shinies (that at least on the surface appeared to work) over maintenance and the long slow slogs into deeper and more subtle problems. So there's a lot more to handling this successf

    • Re:Google, eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:28AM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nblender (741424) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @10:45AM (#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...

        • Weirdly enough... some of my favorite and fondest Navy related memories fall into that same category. When either I (individually) or we as team went to 110% to solve a problem or deal with a crisis. OTOH, these events punctuated long boring stretches of dull routine pushing around the ocean at mumble feet at 5 knots or sitting through interminable off crew training sessions...

      • by 0racle (667029)
        This is exactly the feeling I have got from everything I've seen related to working at Google. I would never consider working at Google for that reason.
      • by thoth (7907)

        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.

        Depends on your perspective... I've worked at places that wanted you there 24/7, and didn't provide jack shit as far as perks. In that situation, Google would seem like paradise.

        Granted, the best option is to find somewhere with better work/life balance.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      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.

      Companies don't think because they don't exist. They're legal fiction. The people who work in those companies may or may not think, but they have no long term interest in the company either due to lack of job security. Nor do shareholders have much interest in the long-term viability of the company, which is why removing your workforce typ

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:35AM (#43409877) Journal
    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: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 job

      • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:00AM (#43409979) Journal
        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.
        • by b4upoo (166390)

          Google provides a great service to the public and has more than earned their spot in the sun.
          I wonder how many people on this thread have ever worked in a situation in which the company was frightened that employees would talk to each other at all. From simple issues such as the size of individual pay checks, or putting together information on senior staff or on bad things going on internally or even being able

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        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.

      • by Soluzar (1957050)
        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.
      • 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?

    • by umghhh (965931)
      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
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by davester666 (731373)

      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'

      • by 0ld_d0g (923931)

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

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        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.

        • by Pope (17780)

          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.

          Massive profits, guaranteeing the company will be around a long time?

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @05:12AM (#43410217) Journal
      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.
      • by Pope (17780)

        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.

        Oh, god, so fucking true. Years ago TBWA, and ad agency, tried to make all the workers have no fixed desk area; they all had laptops and "hotel" stations to work at. Of course, some were better positioned that others, so the early birds got their choice of seats. This lead to any number of problems, and the practice was stopped.

        At my last job, something similar was implemented at the parent company, and my director heard all these great things about it and wanted to do it here. "All the managers love it!" h

    • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @05:22AM (#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

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      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

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Medievalist (16032)

      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 f

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

        • Google used to be able to do exact string searches (case sensitive and everything) at the time they were competing against Alta Vista. I'm not sure when they lost the capability - sometime between 2000 and 2006 CE according to this thread. [google.com]

          But I remember when it used to work (and like you, I am annoyed that it no longer does!).

        • You want an exact phrase...put it in quotes. You want one of the terms to be guaranteed in the results...put a + in front of it. Want to exclude a term...put a - in front of it. Want to exclude a phrase...put it in quotes and stick a - in front. Want to exclude results from a site, write -xyz.com. Etc.

          I do this all the time with Google.

      • by 91degrees (207121)
        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.
    • "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.

    • 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 mar

  • Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilmidnightbomber77 (2891503) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:45AM (#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.
    • by methano (519830)
      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? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:46AM (#43409923) Journal
    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? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:27AM (#43410077) Journal

      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.

      Drive---meh.

      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.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        I don't recall Google Wave making them money.

        So in short - none of the innovative stuff they came up with made money?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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)

        • They've photographed entire countries from the roadside, pretty epic

          They've also skipped massive chunks for no good reason that I can see. Look at this map [goo.gl] of my home county.... if you zoom in, you can see plenty of areas where the major arterial are the only thing covered. Or take a look at this area [goo.gl] of the county - where the eastern half is done, but the western half only partially so. (And this condition has persisted for some time now.)

      • 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? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Instine (963303) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:38AM (#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.
    • by ccguy (1116865)

      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.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      Google Apps for Business also makes money.

      • by TheLink (130905)

        ok cool. Factoring all those brilliant geniuses Google has hired and herded together for "spontaneous creativity" and that 20% own time thing, et cetera et cetera I have this to say:

        That's it?

        It's not very impressive is it? I'd think even Apple is doing better in terms of "innovative" products that are actually profitable. Yeah people like to say the iphone, ipad, ipod, app store, itunes etc sort of stuff might have all been done before and Apple just hit the sweetspot.

        But the same can be said about Google

    • by snadrus (930168)

      Licensing their apps for use in the biggest phone OS (which they control) probably makes some money.
      Their GMail for business is taking off & so is their search appliance (for inside companies).
      Their data centers are cheaper per-seat than anyone. There's no lack of innovation.
      Businesses are warming up to things like Google Docs over MS Office + Sharepoint.
      They try many things (given for free), improve some, then work-out marketability (or axe). Selling mostly to businesses hides this income from public v

  • of-course (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:47AM (#43409927) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:51AM (#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.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:58AM (#43409967) Homepage

      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.

      • 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?

        • ... 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

          • We a company is in trouble it needs to cut costs and sell assets.

            If a department is bringing in a profit (i.e. more money than it costs to run), then selling it is a net loss. Sure, it reduces costs, but it reduces revenue by even more.

  • Islandism (Score:1, Interesting)

    by blackiner (2787381)
    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.
    • by prefec2 (875483)

      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.

  • 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.
  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:23AM (#43410063) Homepage

    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.

    • by dimeglio (456244)

      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 th

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

  • 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.
  • 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 business
  • 60s era thinking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Goldsmith (561202) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:38AM (#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.

  • 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?
  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:10AM (#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.
  • Other than Google's core advertising business, Google are not that great. Docs, drive, whatever they call it is very poor quality.

  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @11:37AM (#43412615)

    ...but I've followed them closely.

    A long time ago I noted that the biggest challenge of the Internet was going to be finding things. As an undergrad I earned a bit of extra money working in the university library, and was told, on my very first day, that if you don't put something in the right place you might as well throw it away, because it's unlikely anybody will be able to find it otherwise. Now we have Google. Dave Cheriton was one of my undergrad profs, BTW, a 2nd year course in data structures that used Pascal.

    Another lesson from my undergrad days is that the structure of a product is isomorphic to the structure of the group that created it. I currently support legacy software that was created by people who never talked to each other, who never even sat down for a chat over lunch. It shows. The interface specs read like legal contracts. The product line worked for a while, but is now unmaintainable, unsupportable, well in to its end of life bug explosion, and we are actively developing replacements.

    The company imploded in 2001. What was left tried a looser development process. It sort of worked, but eventually failed. The biggest issue was a couple of extremely forceful people who steamrollered their own pet ideas and who refused to listen to others. The bosses needed to rein them in, and didn't. It cost us the company.

    Our current development model is basically a surgical team in a skunkworks sort of environment. Head office is in Dallas. I'm in Vancouver. The physical separation is helpful. There aren't enough of us in the company to do much else. It works. We're doing good work. The company is making money. The bosses are happy. We're happy.

    I like a lot of what Google is doing. I like the encouragement to be creative. Good people are creative, and if they're going to be creative, you might as well get them to be creative for you. And you have to take some risks. Not all decisions are right. Not all products are winners. But if you don't risk failure, you don't risk success either.

    I have issues with the work/life balance implicit in the Googleplex work environment. Maybe I'm too old or something (I'm 51), but I expect to have a life apart from my work.

    ...laura

    • As an undergrad I earned a bit of extra money working in the university library, and was told, on my very first day, that if you don't put something in the right place you might as well throw it away, because it's unlikely anybody will be able to find it otherwise. Now we have Google.

      And despite Google... nothing has really changed. Proper keywords, massaging search parameters, and doggedly opening pages hoping *this* one has the information you want has replaced painstakingly trolling through the stacks..

      • Indeed.

        One of those legacy applications here is a customer service web page. The search function is particularly useless: it returns nothing at all, every document on the site, or a random selection of dead links. I've suggested to its maintainer that it should be rewritten (if it serves any purpose at all, which is debatable...). He's dragging his heels.

        ...laura

  • What kind of office encourages proofreading? This article author Ryan Faas needs to work in that environment.

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