Book Review: ‘How Google Works’ by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

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Google, founded in 1998, is today worth in excess of $350 billion by market capitalization.  Eric Schmidt is the current Executive Chairman of Google.  Schmidt has been active in the company’s speaker series, where he has interviewed many prominent figures, including Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Jonathan Rosenberg now serves as an advisor to co-founder and CEO, Larry Page, having previously held the position of Senior Vice President of Products.  The third contributor of this book is Alan Eagle, the Director of Executive Communications.  The insights of these three executives, with their depth of experience and expertise within the business, makes this book an enthralling peek around the door into the world of Google and their management practices.

The core argument is that traditional methods of management are ill-suited to the digital age.  The book encourages a more collaborative working environment; in contrast to the traditional “command and control” model.  Google employs smart creatives, who they believe should have a large degree of autonomy as they have most of the good ideas.  The company also places much emphasis on having a high number of employees with technical skills; 50% of their employees have technical expertise, including Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.  One word repeated many times is “innovation”:  the book places emphasis on Google’s attitude towards change and the importance of development in the survival of modern enterprises.  The book aims to encourage people to bring their best ideas to life; “And when we say you, we mean ‘you’, entrepreneur”.

How Google Works is a celebration of Google’s successes and what they do differently; a ray of light against a difficult backdrop of legal issues surrounding the company at the moment. The book has been released as tensions between Google and the European Commission are increasing.  Additionally, earlier this month, a group of unnamed celebrities, whose nude photos were illegally distributed online, threatened to sue in a $100 million lawsuit against the company for their failure to react as effectively as they could have.  British politicians of all parties have criticised large technology companies for alleged tax avoiding tactics, despite David Cameron’s past praise of the company, where he said he aimed to bring in “a new era of Google government”.  Any cynic would inevitably take this book as a welcome distraction.  Nevertheless, the book is exciting, truly engaging and an easy read if you are interested in the technology industry, Silicon Valley or a career in management.

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