Google and Its Trajectory from Dorm to Domination

February 21, 2020

I read the capitalist’s tool essay/opinion/analysis article called “From Exceptionalism To Unrest: Why Google’s Culture Is Changing.” The idea that Google and its change is an obvious one. The reason for the change, according to the write up, is relative deprivation. Here’s a bit of color on this interesting, MBA-meets-yoga-babble concept:

Insights on relative deprivation shed light on the dynamics Googlers may face in this respect. The research shows that when, for reasons outside of their control, people are denied opportunities that others possess and they desire or feel entitled to and equipped for, they will feel personally deprived, and grow not only dissatisfied, but also resentful.

What happens if a Googler perceives himself/herself/whatever self as being treated unfairly? Here’s the outcome:

The combination of feeling personally deprived as a result of a culture of exceptionalism and that progressive growth of sensitivity to or awareness of fairness components due to sustained uncertainty is an explosive recipe for Google.

Image result for google mouse pad

You know that most people want an official Google mouse pad. The mouse pad says, “I am beloved by the Google.”

Why aren’t today’s Googlers protesting in front of the building and not doing handstands of happiness?

Googlers don’t want to solely be part of a cool club. They, too, as most humans, are looking for a work environment in which people can enjoy working with others and making a difference without having to think first and foremost about where they fall on the ‘excellence’ curve.

Keep in mind that I am old (75 this year to be exact) and I live in rural Kentucky, which is to some who live in fantasy the epicenter of technology, fair dealing in health care and bourbon, and political acumen. (You know the track record of Senator McConnell perhaps?)

From my vantage point, the write up is like an Instagram story: Selected moments, a filter, and difficult to figure out for those not in the Instagram flow.

The Google has changed and maybe there are a few other factors at work:

  1. Lack of regulation allowed the company to do whatever it wanted with zero consequences. Google was not quite anything goes, but it was able to deal with issues because everyone wanted a Google mouse pad, work at Google, or wear a T shirt with the Google logo. The Disneyland for the technically adept has aged. Check out theme parks that have been around for more than two decades. Paint doesn’t bring the zing of the good old days. The zero consequence mode has begun to rundown, and Googlers, Xooglers, and others using the company’s services know that the roller coaster is being pulled downhill.
  2. The management method is what I call high school science club management which I abbreviate to HSSCMM (the final m means method). Science clubs were when I was in high school a place for a small number of people who like science, math, electronics, and mostly one another. It was an “us” versus “them” place. Decisions were made by members who looked at the world through a lens calibrated differently. Prom? Nope, physics. Sports? Nope, statistics. Dates? Nope, derivatives. The HSSCMM tolerated heroin addiction, crazy behaviors like wearing roller blades to a meeting with Sumner Redstone, and sexual fiddling around. Procedures, policies, and a mainstream culture were not part of the game plan. And when these were required, the founders and some original Googlers distanced themselves. The result was a wonky miasma of HSSCMM and what was “required.”
  3. The arrival of money created an elite among the elite. Google, chock full of interesting people with some interesting ideas, migrated from the intricacies of just being clever to having to make stuff work. Lots of smart people want to come up with ideas and then move on. That’s why products and services disappear overnight. No clued in Googler wants to work on something like enterprise search or a loser social network. Google is less like a real science club and more like a group of people who repair ATMs and set up mobile phones. Google faces class war. Sexual improprieties is just part of the annoyances. Money talks, and in Google’s present position, shouts loudly.

There are other factors as well; for example, Wall Street’s need for more and more financial performance. Also, competition from outfits like Amazon, Apple, and Facebook which make it more difficult to make Google the way it was in its first five years of existence. Plus, the slow realization that advertising is not just annoying, it fuels an approach to information that requires comprehensive data about individual’s conscious and unconscious behavior on a 24/7 basis.

The analysis of Google by a culture architect is, as I suggested, interesting. It is, however, a small part of the Google ethos. Reducing Google to grousing employees concerned about fairness misses the mark. Google’s culture is changing, but the changes pivot on the post IPO world, the lack of government regulation, the lust for colorful tchotchkes, and a failure to look at the distinct phases through which Google moved. The calculus of these data combined with the real time information about the “now” Google leads to oversimplifications and fundamental misunderstandings about what Google set out to do, did, and is now doing.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2020


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