Once there was IBM. Then there was Microsoft. Today, Google is the most powerful company in the world.
It will be interesting to see whether Google can hold that position for more than the 15 or so years that IBM and Microsoft did. Google is in to everything. It is most famous, of course, for the search engine that most of us use constantly throughout the day.
Google owns YouTube and created Google Earth, which allows for amazing worldwide imagery. Google is responsible for some of the most creative innovation in a variety of fields today. Google Energy has established a number of wind farms to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels. Through its acquisition of DeepMind Technologies, Google is even working on developing driver-less cars.
Let’s take a look at Google and see what has allowed it to be successful, particularly the characteristics that Robeson County businesses may be able to replicate. The company certainly has a unique pricing strategy for getting clicks on advertisements from Google searches, but that won’t help local organizations.
Google is led by the triumvirate of Larry Page, Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt. This is an unusual power-sharing arrangement that works beautifully if people are able to give top priority to working on their relationships and are willing to yield to the ideas of others periodically.
When one person leads an organization, that person only has one perspective and can be blinded to new opportunities or risks in a particular strategy. Think of parenting as an analogy where a father and mother combine to create a good system of checks and balances in child-rearing.
Google also spends an inordinate amount of time and resources on recruiting. Abundant research has shown that having “good” people is better than hiring for a particular skill set. It also seems to be the case that “A” level employees hire other “A” employees, but “B” employees hire “C” employees. Of course, determining who “good” people are is a non-trivial task, but worth considerable effort by any organization.
Google uses an analytical, “evidence-based” approach to everything it does. For example, with regard to recruiting and hiring, there are four approaches that research has shown to be reliable and valid — situational interviews, patterned behavioral description interviews, job simulations and realistic job previews.
A very unreliable method is to ask an interviewee, “Please tell me about yourself.” Unless a valid methodology is used, hiring managers are often unduly swayed by how articulate a candidate is, how well she or he thinks on the spot, or how attractive someone is. Thinking quickly and being articulate are desirable in many jobs, but are often not nearly the most important skills.
Google also leverages the power of peer pressure in a number of ways. Pressure sounds like a bad word, but an environment in which people feel additional motivation to do their best so they don’t let down their coworkers can be empowering.
Rather than having performance appraisals conducted by just the boss, Google uses peer evaluations. They have also learned that project teams function best when they are limited to three to four people, and they never have a team with more than six.
On a team of three to four people, everyone’s contributions are visible, so it is clear if someone is not pulling her or his weight. They also make sure any long-term objectives are broken down into short-term increments of no more than six weeks, which helps ensure that projects stay on schedule and receive immediate attention if a milestone is not reached.
A final example that I will elaborate on is that Google also has an internal company blog that allows employees to share information without management interference. Research has shown that organizations are much better off allowing grievances to be shared by employees or customers. That way, they know quickly and clearly what to fix.
In many ways, Google is a good example for Robeson County organizations to use as a model.
Eric Dent teaches business at Fayetteville State University. He lives in Lumberton.