Thursday, August 31, 2006


Who gets it ;)

Google gets it too. Some excerpts that follow my philosphy:

Sometimes, value can be bought off the shelf, Merrill says, holding up a plastic fork as an example. But there are times when off-the-shelf software won't do. "Our culture is pretty deeply embedded in many of our processes," he says. "So what we don't want to do is buy a tool, which by extension changes the cultural aspects of the way we do things."

It is my experience that off-the-shelf rarely works completely. It can work in some capacity, but what good is using 40% of a product that lacks 60% of the features you need?

What I like about the Google example is, like a plastic fork, the best commercial products you can purchase is simple "blocks" whose value becomes the way it helps you go from A to B. Not A to C,D,E,1,3,5,6,7 but never getting to B or only doing it partially (or too much).

Google's unorthodox approach to managing its Ph.D.s drove its decision not to budget research and development separately, as most tech companies do. "You end up in many companies with this divide between research and engineering," explains Alan Eustace, senior VP of engineering and research. By dividing those budgets, he says, "you're pretty much guaranteeing institutionally that you won't be solving interesting problems."

And it's true where I was previously employed and am employed now. A divide between people who fix problems and those who work on ensuring those problems don't happen again.

"Our goal is to automate as many things as we can because it makes unfun things not happen," Merrill says. "Nobody wants to have a boring job, right?"

Creating automation IS fun! Doing repetitive tasks is not.

Merrill is evasive when asked what kinds of commercial PC software are used at Google. "More important than what we put on each desktop is how we think about what to put on each desktop," he says obliquely. "Goo-gle's philosophy is that choice is always better than control. Tightly centralized control gets in the way of innovation."

He then takes a jab at CIOs--which he describes as a title used by "old-world companies"--at other companies. "Most people in my job try to control. 'Here are the three things you can buy.'" Merrill explains. "I try to control as a little as I possibly can but make it easy to work within parameters that I know how to work with."

Merrill sees a distinction between tools that tell you something and tools that stop you from doing something. For example, he observes that some financial services institutions block instant messaging because of they way they interpret regulations. "We don't think that's the right approach here," he says.

The right approach, as Merrill sees it: Talk a lot; use data, not intuition; automate wherever you can.

That faith in group intelligence manifests itself in the lunch line. Google provides free meals to employees partly as a perk and to enhance productivity, but also to encourage interaction. It's about the pollination of ideas over salads and sandwiches. "If you want people to talk, if you want people to engage, how do you do that?" Merrill asks. "You give them lunch."

Interaction is the bane of all businesses. NO ONE in a business wants to communicate -- you have to force them in some capacity.

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