How Google Works Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: How Google Works shines a light on the hiring and operating processes of Google, which have enabled it to come up with great products continuously and stay visionary over the past 17 years.

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After looking into visionary companies yesterday, I have no doubt that Google would have been on this list, had it existed back then.

How Google Works was published in late 2014. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg aim to give readers a peek inside Google’s mind. They lay out lots of rules and principles that Google’s leaders have used to stabilize Google during its rapid growth and keep it innovative.

Here are my 3 takeaways from the summary on Blinkist:

  1. Don’t try to inspire, try to attract inspired people.
  2. It’s okay if decisions take forever, as long as everyone agrees once they’re made.
  3. Give your employees room to be creative.

Let’s take a look at each one.

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Lesson 1: Don’t try to inspire, try to attract inspired people.

Here’s the story: Larry Page saw a Google page with really badly designed ads on it. He printed it out and pinned it on a board in the kitchen and wrote “THESE ADS SUCK” next to it on a Friday evening.

A team of engineers saw the note and decided to tackle the problem – over the weekend. They used their free time to work together and solve this problem, and by Monday, the issue was resolved.

What’s the lesson here?

Inspired employees are more important than inspiring leaders.

Page didn’t give them a great motivational talk about why Google needs these ads to be perfect. He just pointed out a problem and because the engineers were already inspired people, they decided to give it a go.

How do you get inspired employees? By creating the right company culture.

This comes back to your core ideology: What are your values? What’s your purpose? Why do you do things?

Make sure your values are inspiring, and your leaders won’t have to be.

If you have a great set of values, the right kind of people will be attracted to your company. The kind that’s ambitious, not driven by money, and smart.

Google calls them smart creatives.

Lesson 2: Let decisions take forever, but make sure everyone’s happy when they’re made.

The only way to keep those smart, creative and inspired employees, is to treat them as equals when making decisions.

That means sometimes decisions will take a lot of time, but that’s okay, because in the end, employees will always support the final decision.

Smart creatives want to be 100% convinced that the decision is the right choice, so they won’t follow suit if they’re not. For example when Sergey Brin disagreed with an engineer, he suggested half the team should follow him, and half the engineer. Eventually, the entire team followed the engineer, because he had the more convincing solution.

This is actually highly efficient, since everyone will be dedicated to building the solution as best as they can, just because they believe it’s the right way to go.

However, sometimes you do need a decision fast, which is why Google had daily meetings about a deal with AOL in 2002 for six weeks straight. Since it was a pressing issue, they committed to give the decision some time each day, to make sure a consensus was achieved before the deadline.

Lesson 3: Give your employees room to be creative.

In yesterday’s Built To Last summary I hinted at the fact that Google’s 20% time, where employees get to spend 1 day per week on whatever fun little project they want, wasn’t their idea.

However, it’s still a great rule (or was). Hiring creatives is no good when you’re not giving them the room to live that creativity.

But creativity is exactly what’s necessary to produce great ideas and products consistently, so create a company culture that encourages it.

Here are a few ways Google does this:

  1. The cafeteria has great food, and it’s free. This way people can stock up on energy while exchanging with colleagues, which is often where the sparks of creativity fly.
  2. Weekly, company-wide meetings are held, where people can submit questions to the founders beforehand. This encourages everyone to speak their mind.
  3. As seen with 20% time or the decision-making, employees are given a lot of independence. They can make their own decisions and don’t have to be afraid of punishment for doing something their boss doesn’t agree with.
  4. Google gives their employees ambitious challenges and difficult to reach goals, which is just what those smart creatives crave.
  5. 10% of their budget goes to experimental projects – no matter if they tank.

So make sure you not only hire creatives, but you also give them the space they need to get the most out of it.

How Google Works Review

I first thought this was a boring summary, I’m not gonna lie. But then I looked at what lessons I could take away from it, and when researching around the web a bit I found all these interesting little details behind all these rules and principles.

Lesson 3 is a must of modern company-culture for me already, maybe because I’m a millennial, but lesson 1 was where it’s at. Contrast the ad story with Steve Jobs, talking hours about fonts, and you have a real game changer here.

Nevertheless, I noticed that the index of the book mentions many curiously named rules and principles, and I’d love to see some of these names turn up on Blinkist – I guess that just means I’ll have to get a copy of How Google Works.

Who would I recommend the How Google Works summary to?

The 53 year old CEO of a small to medium sized business, which is stuck in its old ways, the 28 year old founder, who just found her own values and is about to start a business, and anyone who doesn’t make food at work a priority.

Last Updated on July 27, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!