What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

Perhaps I spent too many years working in the City of London working for unappreciative customers, so I am frequently surprised by how grateful many of our customers are for the help we give them in starting up their business. However, when I heard that Pervin Shaikh wanted to express her appreciation by giving us a copy of What Would Google Do, I was amazed.

Pervin explained that she thought the book would be helpful to aspiring (and existing) entrepreneurs.

Having speed read it this morning, before sending it off to be added to our collection, I agree with her.

The author Jeff Jarvis writes the new media column for the Guardian newspaper, as well as founder of Buzzmachine.com, one of the web’s most popular and respected blogs about the internet and media.

He starts the book by listing some of the new rules that Google used – to become successful, in what he calls the upside-down, inside-out, counter-intuitive and confusing world of the internet age:

1.    Customers are now in charge. They can be heard around the globe and have an impact on huge institutions in an instant.
2.    People can find each other anywhere and coalesce around you-or against you.
3.    The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches.
4.    ‘Markets are conversations,” decreed The Cluetrain Manifesto, the seminal work of the internet age, in 2000. That means the key skill in any organization today is no longer marketing but conversing.
5.    We have shifted from an economy based on scarcity to one based on abundance. The control of products or distribution will no longer guarantee a premium and a profit.
6.    Enabling customers to collaborate with you-in creating, distributing, marketing, and supporting products-is what creates a premium in today’s market.
7.    The most successful enterprises today are networks-which extract as little value as possible so they can grow as big as possible-and the platforms on which those networks are built.
8.    Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is.

Google have been generous in sharing their philosophy on their website, so we can look there to see why they are the fastest growing company in the history of the world, according to the Times newspaper.

Our philosophy – Ten things we know to be true:
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
3. Fast is better than slow
4. Democracy on the web works
5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
6. You can make money without doing evil
7. There’s always more information out there
8. The need for information crosses all borders
9. You can be serious without a suit
10. Great just isn’t good enough

You can get more details from the Google website.

Jarvis also looks at Facebook, and recounts listening to the 22 year old founder Mark Zuckerberg answer a gathering of media moguls at Davos on how to build their own communities – ‘you can’t’.

What he meant, was that communities already exist, so your role is to bring them ‘elegant organization’, to help them achieve their goals more effectively. Jarvis illustrates Zuckerberg’s approach by retelling the story of how he managed to graduate from Harvard, despite not having attended a single class or finding time to study.

‘The final exam was a week away and he was in a panic. It’s one thing to drop out of Harvard to start a gigantic, world-changing company; it’s another to flunk.

Zuckerberg did what comes naturally to a native of the web. He went to the internet and downloaded images of art he knew would be covered in the exam. He put them on a web page and added blank boxes under each. Then he emailed the address of this page to his class-mates, telling them he’d just put up a study guide. Think Tom Sawyer’s fence. The class dutifully came along and filled in the blanks with the essential knowledge about each piece of art, editing each other as they went, collaborating to get it just right. This being Harvard, they did a good job of it.

You can predict the punch line: Zuckerberg aced the exam. But here’s the real kicker: The professor said the class as a whole got better grades than usual. They captured the wisdom of their crowd and helped each other. Zuckerberg had created the means for the class to collaborate. He brought them elegant organization.’

Some of the other highlights of the book for me were:
•    If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found – make sure you maximise your discovery, especially by Google search.
•    Your customers are your ad agency – in the early days of Google, Facebook and Twitter, all their marketing work was done for free by their fans.
•    The mass market is dead – long live the mass of niches – and the long tail.
•    Middlemen are doomed – unless they can show how they add value.
•    Life is beta – let your customers test and develop your products and services.

In the second part of the book, Jarvis applies the Google rules to a raft of traditional activities, from utilities to hospitals to banks. The results are fascinating and relevant for everyone in business. For example, why don’t supermarkets have forums where customers could ask for and vote on new product lines.

In conclusion, I would say this is a fascinating wide ranging and challenging review of how the Google approach to business can (and most likely will) impact how many business and service operations operate in future. And a ‘must read’ for anyone about to start out on their own business adventure.

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