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    Entries in Google (16)


    Google on Competition, Creativity, and Gut Feel

    Last week Fortune ran an extremely interesting interview with Google co-founder and current CEO Larry Page that covered a wide range of subjects related to the tech giant's business. It is a fascinating and enlightening read, and I'd definitely recommend taking a few minutes sometime this week to read it through, but since I know you are busy, I'll pull out a few of the most interesting parts for your consideration.

    Larry Page on competition (and how much he and probably you should be thinking about it:

    Obviously we think about competition to some extent. But I feel my job is mostly getting people not to think about our competition. In general I think there's a tendency for people to think about the things that exist. Our job is to think of the thing you haven't thought of yet that you really need. And by definition, if our competitors knew that thing, they wouldn't tell it to us or anybody else.

    This is a super observation and warning - spend too much time thinking about the competition and run the risk of just copying what they are doing, and not enough time creating the next, new, and innovative thing. And creating the 'next' thing is where the action is, and as we will see in the next point, how you attract and retain the best people.

    Page on how Google chooses which projects to pursue:

    Choosing what to do. We want to do things that will motivate the most amazing people in the world to want to work on them. You look at self-driving cars. You know a lot of people die, and there's a lot of wasted labor. The better transportation you have, the more choice in jobs. And that's social good. That's probably an economic good.

    Really interesting observation about how business strategy (What projects should Google be working on?), is informed and even driven by talent strategy, (What are the things that great talent wants to work on?).  Mostly organizations have this reversed - strategy is set and projects are picked, and THEN the organization seeks or attempts to convince people to work on them.

    Finally, and possibly the most notable aspect of the interiew given Google's famous reputation as a data-driven organization, how Page assesses the progress his teams are making:

    You kind of have a feel for it, but it's hard to measure really accurately. But I think a lot of things have improved. We had a measurement of our rate of how we check in code. We've seen some improvements in that, which I view as a good sign. But I probably put more weight on just an intuitive feel.

    The takeaway here is, for me, a bit of a warning to not let management and leadership simply devolve into a numbers game. Whether it is the influence of Moneyball, the last election and the cult of Nate Silver, or the inevitable calls for leaders to leverage 'Big Data' for decision making - Page's admission and inclination to trust his intuition is in a way refreshing. 

    Besides, the robots have not (yet) learned how to manage by intuition.

    Have a great week all!


    Cleaning out the attic: A Few Friday links

    Some quick links to a few interesting reads on a 'feels-like-it-should-be-the-holiday-break-but-we-are-not-quite-there-yet-Friday'.  Mostly these are items that have been sitting as perpetual open tabs in Chrome or as 'starred' items in Google Reader for a while and that I thought might be subject matter for the blog, but I just never got around to using them.

    In no particular order of importance or relevance:

    Most infographics kind of stink. This one, covering the T-shirt history of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory is awesome. 

    Did 'Big Data' give you a big headache in 2012?  Well, you are not alone. For a very readable and brief look at Big Data for the rest of us check out A Veteran Mad Man Tries to Figure Out the Point if Big Data in Advertising.

    The McRib is coming back! - And it looks like it will be with us for the Holidays!

    From Retronaut - some very cool British WWI Recruitment posters

    There are always quite a few 'The High Cost of a Bad Hire' stories kicking around the HR blogosphere at any time, but few of those carry an $11M price tag like Auburn University has to shell out to bid farewell to their football coaching staff.

    If you don't have big plans for the holidays, or just don't like to cook, you can always go for the 'Self-Heating Holiday Dinner in a Can' this year.

    I have always held that basketball is the greatest sport of them all. This (long-ish) piece from Wired, Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success, breaks it down more scientifically, but arrives at the same conclusion - basketball is the greatest sport of all. 

    The birthrate in the US has sunk to its lowest level since 1920.  I guess we will all be working longer into our old age.

    Not a fan of Klout or other attempts to measure 'influence?' Well you may not be able to simply ignore what you don't like (or understand). According to this HBR piece, the future of enterprise influence analytics will be inside the organization.

    Let me know what you're reading!

    That's it from me for a Friday - have a great weekend everyone.


    Don't quite 'get' Google+ yet? Fear not, you'll be ok

    I am almost certain that if you are reading this blog that you have at least some passing awareness of Google+, the search behemoth's latest foray into the social networking space. By most accounts G+ is starting strong, coming out of a short but limited private beta period to grow to over 10 million users in just a couple of weeks. Plus seems to fit nicely into a gap that many users of more established social networks feel exists, making it easier and simpler to share status updates, contents, images, etc. with discrete 'circles' of friends and contacts, positioning Plus less of a broadcast medium like Twitter, while offering better (at least ostensibly), control over data privacy, and possessing more potential for meaningful engagement than on Facebook.

    G+ is still very new, and while most folks (at least the majority of ones in my 'Circles') have not done much more on the network other than start re-building the social connections they had previously formed on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, that has not led to a myriad of chatter and blog posts attempting to decipher, explain, and help you, the neophyte G+ user make sense of it all. We have seen this before with other Google products like Wave and Buzz. The products launch to a (relatively) small set of users, and almost instantly a flood of content gets created (with a shockingly limited data set and experiences to draw from), that compete for some knid of position or authority in the space.

    For more casual users of social networking services, (like your Grandma on Facebook), the hype and bluster surrounding G+ is likely lost, as they happily continue to to post pictures, check in on family members, and tend to their virtual crops on Farmville. By early reports, G+ is mostly male, and very geeky. Sort of like the old High School A/V clubs back in the day. 

    And for more hard core social networking aficionados, G+ while intriguing and capable, will need to offer just enough reason to get people to divert at least some of their social networking energy away from the value networks they have spent the last few years building up on the liked of LinkedIn and Twitter. No doubt we will soon see a rapid uptake on 'productivity' tools that will automate bi-directional feeds and updates to and from G+ from the older social networks. And then soon after brands and organizations will begin to adopt G+, the game makers like Zynga and others will get on board, and finally the Google advertising engine will kick in - developments that will certainly change G+ from what it looks and feels like today. 

    It can be pretty hard to keep up with all these developments in the social space, and one might feel frustrated or even behind the times if they are not one of the early adopters. But I know of at least one other pretty well-known and successful guy that also has only a passing understanding of G+, legendary investor Warren Buffett. Check out the (paraphrased) comments from Buffett about the technology and social networking space taken from a recent interview on Bloomberg TV:

    Interviewer: Did you ever feel you missed the boat on these four companies? (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook)

    Buffett:  ‘Well I missed the boat on them, but I don’t mind missing boats that I don’t know enough to captain’. ‘I don’t have to understand everything. I am smart in spots and I stay around those spots', (emphasis mine).

    Nice one. Now of course Buffett must have staff that stay informed about the latest and greatest in technology, social, mobile, and whatever other new things are coming. But he made it clear in the interview that he personally did not really deeply understand these newer technologies and developments, and consequently did not feel compelled to chase them, or to change his strategy or direction to compensate for that fact. Buffett stressed the importance (at least for him), of sticking to what he knew and felt like he could excel at, rather than being constantly on the make to re-invent himself.

    I think the lesson here might be an important one, as new technologies and networks continue to multiple and proliferate, it can be really easy and dangerous to get caught up in the chase ourselves. Some new network gets hot, a new tech gadget hits the market, a major service starts offering a new solution - whatever, and we almost immediately change course, divert some of our time and attention to this new shiny thing, and feel compelled to figure it all out. And exploit it for some personal gain, I mean isn't that at least part of the game?

    While some experimentation is great, and even fun at times, I also think it can put us in a situation where we never stop chasing, and spend enough time really focusing on that thing we are really good at, that we understand deeply, and that we can comfortably and reliably add whatever value it is we are trying to create. Warren Buffett might be one of the greatest investors that has ever lived, but he knows what he knows, and it seems that realization has served him pretty well. 

    I kind of like Google Plus, but I also really don't know what if anything I'll ever do with it, and that any time I spend there is time I'm not doing something else. We make these kinds of tradeoffs all the time I know, but when the trade involves something so new and exciting as G+, I think we perhaps make them too easily.

    What's your take - are we too caught up in the hype and the chase and not spending enough time at what we are really good at?



    What are we searching for?

    Or perhaps more accurately, what are we asking the all-knowing Grand Wizard of Google to help us find?

    Well with the aid of a little tool called 'Google Insights for Search',  in the general 'Human Resources' space, for the last 90 days or so we seem to be very interested in the mundane, (2011 Mileage Rate), and the provocative ('the ladders').

    The table below shows, for the preceding 90 days,  what Google calls 'rising searches', that is searches that have experienced significant growth in a given time period, with respect to the previous time period.

    From these results, I think we can make a few observations and conclusions:

    1. Wow, the IRS mileage rate is a WAY bigger deal that I would have imagined.  Had I known this earlier, Monday's post would have been titled 'The 2011 IRS Mileage Rate', I bet it would have tripled my site traffic.

    2. Besides the IRS mileage rate excitement, the search that generated the most buzz in the last 90 days was for The Ladders, certainly due in large part to their well-publicized and much critiqued recent set of TV commercials.  At least by this one measure, the spots seem to be working for them.

    3. I don't really know anything about Wiz or Whiz Khalifa.  I do in fact, enjoy Cheez Whiz from time to time. 

    4. Once I found the Google Insights for search page, I spent a solid hour trying all manner of different search terms, categories, time period to see what was popular, what was growing.  Oddly enough, both Wiz and Whiz seem to appear in a number of other categories as well.  I probably should know who he is by now.

    5. There really isn't a '5', but the big book of blogging says having 5 items in a list is better than 4.

    Check out Google Insights for Search sometime, it is a fun way to waste, spend a few minutes.

    Have a great weekend!



    Birth, School, Work, Death and Ngram Viewer

    Chances are by now you have heard about or seen some examples of Google's latest search-related application, the Ngram Viewer.  The Ngram viewer lets users examine the trends in usage of specific words and phrases in published books, some of which dating back over 500 years.

    The Ngram viewer searches for specified words across about 5 million books, a portion of the huge quantity of works that have been digitized by the search giant. The Ngram viewer tool works rather simply, enter a word or phrase (up to five words), and the tool generates a chart of the frequency of the selected words appearance in books over the desired timespan.

    Since the tool has been released to the public lots of bloggers have posted results of comparative searches for technology-related terms (shockingly, the word 'internet' was not that common in the 1700's), cultural shifts (when does 'feminism' start to enter the lexicon), or sort of interesting but not really all that important (when did 'hot dog' get more common than 'frankfurter').  

    So when I decided to post about the Ngram viewer I felt the challenge to come up with a set of search words or phrases that would be both interesting and relevant to either the technology subject matter this blog normally attempts to focus on, or the more general world of work and talent management. Since the technology related terms would not generally start appearing until the last 25 or 30 years, I ruled out that angle, and decided to shift to a more broad focus, using more common terms that hopefully would shed some light on the culture, and the relative importance and focus on said terms.

    Without further delay - Birth, School, Work, and Death from 1800 - 2008:

    Curiously, 'Birth' tends not to fluctuate much in usage over the last 200 or years, while 'School' and 'Work' both have seen an upward trend over that period.  At the start of the chart, 1800, 'Death' was the most frequent term, probably since in 1800 death must have seemed pretty imminent most of the time.  'Work' passes 'Death' in about 1845 or so, and remains the most commonly used term of the four for the remainder of the chart.  

    What does it mean?  Are we as a culture so focused on work, more so than by birth, school, and death that we have lost sight of what really matters?  Maybe it is 'work' that really matters? 

    Maybe this post was just a cheap excuse to play around with Ngram Viewer and post a classic video from The Godfathers.

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