Google is one of the top organisations in the world. By almost any measure – growth, revenue, innovation, brand recognition – Google rates highly (if not the top of the pile). In short, in only ten years Google has become a global house-hold name. Following my Google office visit today at Hyderabad, I’d like to highlight one of the fundamental reasons for this rapid ascendance, and it’s not their famed algorithm, quirky founders Page & Brin, nor their consistently market-leading technological innovations.
Obviously these aspects of the organisation are crucial elements to the birth, growth and successes of Google. However, there is one other area, equally as critical to all of this. The creation of the Google philosophy that encompasses ethics, social sustainability, and democracy.
By embracing ethics Google has created a working environment that takes care of, motivates and retains the highest quality employees. This includes providing any number of benefits to all staff including an amazing array of FOC lunch and snack options, health cover and insurance, massage, in-house doctor and counselling services. On top of this, Google has built a corporate culture that has flattened traditional organisational hierarchies, highlighted by a fundamental principle that “you can be serious without wearing a suit”. Status, seniority and politics do not provide the organisational framework, instead creativity, talent, innovation and mutual respect rule.
Beyond the office, Google has shown their established competitors, such as Microsoft, how to “make money without doing evil”. By creating open platforms, they have ensured innovation can continue. Furthermore, they have avoided the collusion, vicious competitive bullying and other anti-competitive tactics often employed by major industry players^ and other big corporations. Google promotes open-source products that are transferable to external platforms and products. Not coercive, monopolistic beasts like the Microsoft model*.
The last major point worth mentioning is Google’s strong ethical stance on democratic principles of freedom of information. Google refuse to operate in countries that will not allow it to operate with full democracy. This was highlighted in 2010, when Google refused to censor its Chinese search engine following requests from the Chinese Communist Party to remove politically inflammatory material. This withdrawal cost the organisation Millions (if not Billions in the long run) of lost revenue in the world’s second largest and fastest growing economy.
In all of this, not only has Google created an ethical organisation, it has also created thicker value^. All of these activities, have in their own way, built the Google brand, enabled innovation, attracted and retained the best and brightest, all while “cutting a path for others to follow”.
Note: quotation marks are direct quotes following my meeting at Google 20/07/2011.