Google is such a huge part of everyday life for me that it almost fades into the background at times. I got this book believing for some reason that it would give some more insight into the leadership, decision-making process, philosophy and core directions of the company that I could apply to my own business and life. I got very little of that and a lot more surprises.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #29 – In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy
The chaos behind the scenes at Google seems baffling to me. There is no doubt that the 2 founders are absolute geniuses and if anyone else had tried to pull off what they did, they would have failed. The stars aligned for Google, or maybe Sergey Brin and Larry Page did the mathematical computations and figured out ahead of time the date, time and trajectory of the alignment and planned all along for Google to be at the nexus. I don’t think we’ll every really know.
The book itself was a little slow going and painful for me. I read a lot but the subject matter wasn’t as engaging as I would have hoped. I wasn’t intrigued by the algorithms and stories about cheap server drives. The stories about the owners being socially awkward and unconventional were amusing anecdotes and the amazing scope of Google’s projects and reach is astounding. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and possibly a few other companies in the near future will change the landscape of our economy and social norms for the foreseeable future. The age and clustering of these companies make one wonder at the speed with which technology and change are happening now. Google was founded in 1998, it’s less than 20 years old. Are these new companies the equivalent of Oil Mining, Trains/Shipping, and Automobile Manufacturing? Will Page, Brin, Zuckerburg, Jobs, Besos and Gates be remembered like Ford, Getty, Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Carnegie? Only time will tell for sure, but it looks promising.
This book doesn’t seem to draw any lasting conclusions or make any commentary about the company or its leadership. The entire book seems to report the facts and to state how things were, it’s historical with some side stories to amuse. The format is very logical and moves along is a meaningful way, mostly separated by projects and phases of the company. I would have liked some 3rd party commentary, conclusions, and recommendations. Should Google be doing what it’s doing? Is it Evil? Is it weird that they want a transparent process and a flat organization but at times are obsessive about withholding information? What went wrong with Google + ? Was Google just incredibly lucky as an organization? Is the company just completely reactive and money hungry? They seem to turn on a dime from being an altruistic search company with designs to license out the search feature to focusing on the ads. Does the end justify the means? Google has released an amazing amount of technology and done more for online traffic than arguably any other company and they did most of it free to the public. Is it acceptable that they did all of this so that they could have more users to market to? They essentially wanted to up their media share. I personally don’t have any issues with their progress and drive to find new advertising markets. I use gmail, chrome, google drive, youtube, and probably a ton of other google enabled systems that may or may not make my life easier. I’m a Google fan. I wish Google would open up a service like Amazon, I’m already searching for the products on their pages, I bet Amazon would still advertise with them.