Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I sometimes get the feeling that Google tries to hire all the world's clever people and keep half of them on the bench, like a rich English Premier League team.
You'd think that all those clever people would have achieved more than just becoming the world's richest ad agency.
So many of things they create -- Google Glass, for example -- suffer from a certain lack of vision. Human vision, that is.
Still, the Mountain View company is viewed by some as the pinnacle of modern management.
This week, Google released its five "dynamics" that make for a brilliant and successful team. I wonder if they'll surprise you.
1. Psychological Safety.
This, in Google's definition, is the notion that taking risks and being vulnerable in front of others is encouraged rather than frowned upon. Humans aren't very good at being forgiving, especially in atmospheres that are essentially competitive (you've seen The Hunger Games surely). It's an art to allow them to be open and even themselves as they pursue a collective goal. Some friends at Google tell me that this works in some groups, but not others. There's still a superiority complex that pervades certain parts of the company. Still, the goal is surely noble. Now, if only we could have the psychological safety that Google wasn't spying on us 24 hours a day.
This one seems obvious. Yet some point especially to millennials as being poor examples of this trait. However, the essence of modern corporate life is that it's corporations themselves that aren't dependable. When you know that you could be fired at any moment in some random "rationalization," there isn't a perfect balance in the relationship between you and your employer. When you know that your company dedicates itself to quarterly results, you want to hang-and-quarter the system. For Google, however, the important thing is for employees to "get things done on time and meet Google's high bar of excellence." The result of this, sometimes, seems to be that Google releases products too soon without sufficient consideration for how real humans might receive them. This, so Google insiders tell me, is that too often the company is trying to solve problems that appeal to its own engineers rather than the world outside.
3. Structure and Clarity.
You hear this one at every corporation. Everyone should know their roles, understand their goals and sacrifice their souls. That's the ideal. The practical truth is that this doesn't happen even half as often as it should. Short-term issues quickly dominate over long-term strategies. Real world events overtake good intentions. And suddenly you're left fighting fires such as anti-trust lawsuits in Europe, rather than striving to ensure that humans are prevented from driving ever again.
This one's tantalizing. There's clear evidence that employees are increasingly seeking meaning in their work lives. That craving for meaning won't necessarily correspond with salary. Google, though, says its most successful employees want their work to matter. To them personally, you understand. If you spend so many hours of your day -- and, increasingly, your evening and even night -- working on some project or other, you want to find soulful satisfaction in that. But in a corporate world that is becoming increasingly intrusive (in every sense), deciding what means something to you isn't always easy and isn't always personal for very long.
It isn't just about believing your work matters. It's about believing that it creates change. The most motivated and successful team members need to see real-world effects. This is very human. You want to believe that whatever you do will have an effect out there, not just in your corporate cocoon. For Google, teams that are working on projects where each member believes they're "making the world a better place" are likely to be more successful. And then there are the folks who work on Google+.