Google’s 10 beliefs and how they can help you

Google’s 10 beliefs: Earlier this year I changed companies from a 50,000 person international transportation company into an up and coming technology firm (1,600 people across 12 countries).  What inspired me to move was my desire to move from a very mature organization and into an organization that was in its metaphorical teenage years.  The company is aiming to go through an IPO in the next few years, and my job is to help make sure our leaders and employees have the capabilities they need to survive in this new reality. 

Previously my experiences have been building capabilities in organizations that were over 100 years old.  So I began researching other companies that had gone through the rapid growth process over the last decade.  And this research led me to an interesting article about the foundations of Google, and the “10 Things [they] hold to be true”.

I wanted to share these 10 things because I found them inspiring, and I believe that more organizations should do this type of cultural reflections. I also believe that a lot of these beliefs are not just limited to the tech world.  So I hope you enjoy these 10 Beliefs, and ask yourself ‘What lessons can I take back to my role, my team, and my company?

Google’s 10 beliefs

Focus on the User and all else will follow

There are many stakeholders in your company (shareholders, the board, employees, vendors etc…), and just the sheer amount of stakeholders can easily cause us to take our eyes off of the most critical stakeholder: your customers.  Your customers need to be at the center of every discussion and decision in your company.

But from my experience, employees and leaders can easily put the customers second.  Processes are designed for what works best for the team or the company, not necessarily what’s best for the customer.  Customer interactions and experiences are designed with the company in mind, not the customer.  Even lot of products are designed in terms of market share and profit margin, and not on what is best suited for the customer.

Provocative question to ask yourself – Are all of my employees and leaders putting our customers first in all of their decisions?

It’s best to do one thing really well

When I work with employees who are trying to improve their performance, they often make the mistake of trying to fix everything.  Similarly I have seen a lot of companies try to do too many things. Both individuals and companies are at risk for stretching themselves toothing, and that just leads to dips in quality and effectiveness.  We can’t be good at everything.

Instead, we should aim to do one thing (or just a few things) incredibly well.  This is why great restaurants have a limited fixed menu and receive a Michelin star, while your neighborhood buffet serves everything, but none of the food is great. Within your team or organization you should look to maximize your greatness in one area, and as a leader you should push each of your people to become great in one thing.  If you don’t, then all you will ever be is just OK.

Provocative questions to ask yourself – What is the one thing I can be great at?  What is the one thing my team can be great at?

Google’s 10 beliefs

Great isn’t just good enough

Even if you accomplish greatness in one thing, don’t allow yourself to rest. Everyday smart people are coming along to push the boundaries of what you thought possible.  You should never lose your hunger in your organization, nor in your personal development.

I honestly have seen this too often.  Senior leaders reach a certain level of success, and their fire goes out.  They think they have reached the summit.  But the truly great leaders I have worked with are the ones who believe they have never reached the summit.  There is always something more to climb and get better at.

Provocative questions to ask yourself – Have you gotten complacent in your own development?  What is one thing you could push yourself even further on?

Fast is better than slow

I come from a background of industrial manufacturing, shipping, and banking. And the one thing those three industries have in common is that they are not known as early adopters, or quick movers. And it’s understandable, regulations and traditions do not make it easy to take risks.

But there is some inspiration we can tack from Google (and tech in general).  Being fast is a whole lot better than being slow when it comes to competition.  When faced with real competition, being late to the party might mean you miss the party altogether.  While finding the right balance is key, it is better to ere on the side of speed than caution.

Provocative questions to ask yourself – Is my organization faster than average, or slower than average when it comes to change?  As a leader, am I quicker to adapt new strategies, or am I more cautious?

Google’s 10 beliefs

You can make money without doing evil

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Google’s original cultural drive was to do no evil.  But I think this is something that every industry should also reflect on. 

We all have seen too many companies that have put profit ahead of everything else.  And while it is true that a company should always strive for profit, companies should also strive to make a different in their customers’ lives and in their community as a whole.  Having a purpose beyond profit is so important, that my next blog will be about just that topic. 

Provocative question to ask yourself – How have you made sure your team and organization is focused more on your customers and overall community, and not just on your bottom line?

You can be serious without a suit

This belief almost made me laugh when I read it for the first time. The previous company I came from was one steeped in tradition, and everyone wore a suit.  I wore a suit almost every day.  We took ourselves very seriously.But my new company didn’t have any of that tradition.  It was jeans and t-shirts. 

Of course, some might say that’s just the difference between an older company and a new tech firm, but I think there is more to it.  The old company valued titles, job levels, and hierarchy.  While the new company valued ideas and collaboration.  And it shouldn’t surprise you that the old company was stuck in the mud, and struggling to adapt to a new industrial reality.  While the new company was constantly expanding into new ideas. 

I am not saying that wearing jeans will all of the sudden make you an industry leading innovator, but I will say that believing that you can only be successful in a suit is the wrong way to think.

Provocative questions to ask yourself – How can I take myself less seriously?  How can I be less formal, while still delivering the results I need to?

Google’s 10 beliefs

Democracy on the web works

Most industries do not just exist on the internet like Google does, and so some of the rules do not apply in the same way.  And while the internet for democratizing different processes, it’s fair enough that not everything can be fully democratized. Just ask industry regulators.

That being said,I think this is something we really need to push ourselves on.  We need to be thinking about how we can give more power to all of our users and not just a select few.  We need to be thinking about how we can offer choice in our products for our clients, so they can choose what best suits them.  Our customers know better than us what they want.  So why not listen to them?

Provocative questions to ask yourself – How can your company give its customers more power?

You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer

More and more work is being done away from our desks. Whether it is our laptops or our cell phones, we aren’t tied down to one location anymore.  And that brings us back to the first belief, where we need to focus on the user. 

Instead of making the user come to us, we need to be thinking about us going to the user.  I am sure most of you already believe this, but it stands to be repeated. Companies are not just brick and mortar institutions.  They are a service that meets their customers where they are.


Provocative question to ask yourself – What can you do more to meet your customers on their terms and when they need it?

There is always more information out there

Over the last few decades, industrial innovations and revolutions have been less and less around products and material goods.  Nowadays, information is the real source of innovation. In every industry, companies are trying to gather as much information as possible, synthesize that information, and then give it back to the customers.

But what about your company?  How are you managing the information of your customers?  What new insights are you giving your customers about their needs?  How are you using information to be proactive in serving your customers, as opposed to being reactive?

Provocative question to ask yourself – When it comes to information management, would you consider your company an early adopter, part of the early majority, or lagging behind?

Google’s 10 beliefs

The need for information crosses all borders

And similarly to the last point, the need for information is not just limited to a few customers.  Information management (when done right) cane proactively make the lives of you, your team, your customers, and your suppliers better. 

Provocative question to ask yourself – How much are you investing in information management in your company?

Writing your company’s beliefs

Every company can put out a mission statement or a vision of the future, and often they are just generic statements that saying nothing important about the company.  But these beliefs are just 10 statements about the culture and way of working in Google. When you read them, you get an honest sense of what is important, and what would need to guide your decisions if you were an employee at Google.

And this is something that I don’t think should be limited to Google.  I think more companies should identify their core beliefs and share them.  To me, it’s not just a PR move.  It’s about putting a flag in the ground and standing for something.  It’s about saying what you stand for (beyond just profits and shareholder returns).  And that is something that more companies(and banks) should be doing, 

Google’s 10 beliefs

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