Google’s Ten Golden Rules – Is the Article a Bad Sign?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt writes about managing knowledge workers at Google.

At google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of "knowledge workers." After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will "strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers' way." Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing "the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years."

There's a big problem in the article, which is that it focuses overwhelmingly on engineers. Yet almost everyone at Google is problemably considered a knowledge worker – not just the engineers.

Don't get me wrong… my B.S. is in Electrical Engineering and I'm a big fan of the problem solving skills taught in engineering programs. But let's don't be short-sighted. There is more to business than cool technology, even when cool technology is your core business. Economics, finance, marketing… all that stuff still matters. Technology that's cool but doesn't solve any pressing problems (lots of what Google develops falls into this category) isn't valuable. Remember that despite all of their technological creativity, Google's revenues come almost exclusively from their search+advertising model. But of course, they should know that if they are following my favorite rule on their list:

At Google, almost every decision is based on quantitative analysis. We've built systems to manage information, not only on the Internet at large, but also internally. We have dozens of analysts who plow through the data, analyze performance metrics and plot trends to keep us as up to date as possible. We have a raft of online "dashboards" for every business we work in that provide up-to-the-minute snapshots of where we are.

that's great, but are they looking at any data that doesn't have to do with Google?

Google is right on track with so much of what they are doing, but I wonder if, for them, "search" has become the hammer that will fix every nail in the information management problem we all have. I worry that they are too focused on technology over economics. And I wonder if they realize that a search upstart with dramatically better results could sap most of their revenue stream in a heartbeat. The switching costs for consumers are pretty low, and that's never a sign of an industry that will have killer margins for the long-term.