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Friday, 30 March 2012 02:33

Don't Delude Yourself: Your Organization is Not Google

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And maybe it's better that way.

It happens all the time:  I'm taking questions after a speaking engagement or meeting with senior leadership execs, and sooner or later someone says "I really want us to become like the Google of our industry!  How can we do that?"

you're not google change management

I understand the sentiment:  In just 14 years, Google has become the dominant player in search, online advertising and browsing; made smart decisions like YouTube and Blogger; and, perhaps most importantly, built revenues of $37 billion annually.  It's got a cool brand identity and its 'Don't Be Evil' mantra is a strong one.  It's hard to argue with that kind of success.

I agree that corporate culture - which Google has in spades - is a key driver of success.  It's natural to think you want to built an organization where there are free snacks for everyone, people bike around the 'campus', and you attract the best and brightest.

But Google is a high-tech company which lives and dies by maintaining a reputation for being right out there on the edge and filling their organization with hyper-creative people who are passionate about things like artificial intelligence, neuroscience and Raspberry PI.

These things aren't necessarily going to be achievable if you're in the business of organic food products or high-end home fashions, and in fact they may not be best goals for your business, either.

Here's why:

  1. Your people:  As we discussed the other day, different industries attract different types of people.  Unless your organization has a whole lot of eccentric, coffee-fuelled engineers and developers hanging around, trying to turn yourself into a Google Campus is going to be an exercise in futility
  2. Your industry:  Having a reputation for being cool and cutting-edge is great for a high-tech company like Google; it's less attractive for a company in the business of making baby products, where a more traditional, family-oriented feel is more appropriate
  3. Your business goals:  It's tempting to want to be a $37 billion organization - but that was never Google's sole goal and it shouldn't be yours.  Make sure you have solid business goals that make sense for your organization and the vision you are trying to achieve, and the money will follow
  4. Your marketplace:  An organic foods company which seems to spend more time on building profits and achieving world domination than on promoting healthy eating is soon going to find they've lost credibility with their target audience (see my note above about your business)
  5. Your history:  Google was able to start from scratch with a very specific vision.  If you've already been in business for 25+ years, with an established culture, brand and place in the market, trying to shoehorn your organization into a whole new mold may not be the best use of your resources.

If you want to encourage the qualities you admire in Google, like following a compelling vision or encouraging employees to be passionate about their work, I'm all for it.

But the most successful organizations, like Google - the ones which lead their industries - are ones which are realistic about their culture, their business goals, their people and their marketplace.  The beest way to 'be like Google' is to try to be the best in your field - not the best in someone else's.







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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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