Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Would Google Do?

I picked up What Would Google Do? on the recommendation of the author of a couple of other books I've read and enjoyed. I thought the title was hokey (playing off the What Would Jesus Do? phenomena from several years ago), yet somewhat intriguing. What would Google do? And where exactly would they do it?

Jeff Jarvis, the author, walks the reader through how Google has not just changed the internet, but how people think and their expectations. He forces his readers to consider how this affects them, and especially their businesses. It's such a complete paradigm shift (over-used phrase, but oh-so-appropriate here), I'm still trying to digest it.

Some of Jarvis' challenges to the readers:
"What business are you really in?" (pg 80-81)

"I do believe that if companies were to ask themselves - and employees were empowered to ask - whether they were being good or evil to their customers and communities, they would often make different decisions." (pg 101)

"Google is seeing problems, solving them, and finding opportunities in them by thinking in new ways. This is all about finding your own new worldview." (pg 122)

Fortunately for us, Jarvis takes the second half of his book to apply the principles from the first half to business as we know it. He tackles media, advertising, utilities, manufacturing - a whole host of traditional industries which seem un-Google-able, if that is a word, and Googlifies them. It really is fascinating reading - probably made all the more fascinating if you were involved in such an industry.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the chapter titled "Google Power & Light: What Google Would Do." Google.org (the philanthropic arm) is actually involved in trying to reinvent our energy economy. It makes sense really. "If Google can help create cleaner, cheaper electricity anywhere it operates, it will improve its own bottom line." (pg 162)

Jarvis tells about his experience attending the World Economic Forum in 2008 and listening to Bono and Al Gore passionately plead for their core causes. Then he went to hear the Google.org forum.

"The contrast was stark. To summarize if not oversimplify their vantage points: Where Gore demands taxes and regulation, the Google team proposes invention and investment. Gore and company want to raise the cost of carbon - the cost of polluting - whereas the Google team wants to lower the cost of energy. ...

[W]e see different worldviews at work. "You can't succeed just out of conservation because then you won't have economic development," [Google.org executive director Larry] Brilliant said. "Find a way to make electricity - not to cut back on it but to have more of it than you ever dreamed of." ... Create and manage abundance rather than control scarcity - as ever, that is the Google worldview." (pg 163)

Jarvis goes on to contrast those two worldviews - create abundance vs. control scarcity. It reminds me of Paul Zane Pilzer's books - he writes based upon the same idea of creating abundance, though it's been so long since I've read his books I can't pinpoint exact quotes. Honestly, it brings to mind John 10:10 where Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." That brings in a whole different discussion that I won't touch right now.

After I was finished with this book, my husband spotted it and asked me about it. I told him I'm still thinking about it, trying to digest it. He said, "Should we own this book? Should I read it?"

"Absolutely," I said.

I can't wait to get my own copy and start marking it up.

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