Last week I was out for dinner with two good friends who work in branding (well one does, the other pretends to). The conversation turned to Google and Brand Guru 1 asks “What does Google actually stand for these days?”. I suddenly realised I had utterly no idea. “It seems as if they could use our services”, whooped Brand Guru 2, as he rubbed his hands with almost violent glee. “Actually”, I replied, “I think they may need something a little more radical…”
Larry, Sergey, you used to be small. But now you’re big. Maybe you genuinely don’t realise this but you’re suffering all the problems that other big companies experience. You’ve tried management re-shuffles, acquisitions and straight-up forcing G+ down people’s throats. In short you’re trying all the things that big companies normally try. Which is completely understandable. But it’s not how you originally became an extremely profitable company, is it?
Once upon a time Google broke all the rules. You started a search company when conventional wisdom stated that Yahoo owned the market (imagine!). You were the anti-company. When you launched Google’s first ad product, it was everything that Madison Ave wasn’t. No agencies, just a self-serve model. When Google went public, you ran a highly innovative auction process despite a lot of opposition from Wall St. Since then, you’ve committed hundreds of millions of dollars into non-core areas, which would normally never get approval by a public company board (e.g. self-driving cars, renewable energy etc.).
You didn’t break rules just for the hell of it. You did it because it made sense. It was simply the optimal thing to do. Somewhere along the journey, you’ve forgotten how to think this way.
Conventional wisdom dictates that companies must continue growing linearly. But why? It clearly doesn’t lead to better product execution.
It’s time for you to smash the rules. Announce that you’re going to radically alter Google’s structure into an archipelago model. Split the company into ten separate units. Separate P&L, everything. Google, the public company will hold majority holdings in all but no operational control. You and Sergey will need to decide which one you join. Yeah, that’s right, you’ll have to pick *one* thing. Not ten.
You’ll be told by lawyers, investment bankers and analysts that you’re crazy. You’ll probably be hit by class-action suits as well. But at the end of the day optimal growth and execution comes from small companies, not big ones. Can you really argue with that point?