Secrets of Google Human Resources: You Too Can Capture World Headlines and Generate Opportunities to Apologize

January 20, 2021

I read “A Former Google People Manager’s Advice on Designing Teamwork in Silicon Valley.” The subtitle is a Googley wonder:

Distribute authority with design thinking

How will Timnit Gebru react to the article? What about those involved in the quasi unionization of the Google?

I don’t know. I do know that the essay is a good example of high school science club management in action. Let me explain.

First, forget the human resource moniker or the more plebian personnel manager. The Google way is to use the term people manager.

Second, the metaphor which snagged my attention was “autonomous slime mold.” Tasty, just the thing for a science club member’s essay on “How to Win Friends Like a Slime Mold.”

Third, engage in bias busting. Here’s an example of what I call Gebru empathy:

By incorporating experts from other fields, you might come to outcomesthat weren’t available using previous methods but could be utilizedin new ways based on what’s been done in other industries, otherexpertises, and different perspectives. This _bias busting_ can help your specialized teams uncover their blind spots and assumptions about the problem space with new insightsfrom other disciplines. A healthy dose of humbleness works wonderswhen problem solving.

Fourth, deal with disagreements by setting expectations. Yes, but are those expectations written down in an employee handbook? Is the handbook updated on a regular basis? Ho ho ho.

Fifth, define success. Do good work? But what at the Google is good work? Hooking on a team which has the backing of the big bosses? Generating lots of revenue via a clever hack to advantage the GOOG? Being a friend or high school chum of a Board member or another top dog? What about having expertise which sheds light on what an assumed rival is doing?

To sum up, the litigation, the chatter about employee discrimination, and the Gebru research dust up illustrate the fruits of high school science club management applied to humanoids.

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2021

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