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What would Google do? Start thinking about it, WNY

Jeff Jarvis is one of the most innovative and provocative of the new media thinkers. His blog is a must read for anyone trying to figure out the future of the news/publishing business.

With the release of his new book, What Would Google Do? Jarvis is arguably about to become a big deal in the field of economic development. He tries to apply the thinking behind Google's success to the rest of the economy. The potential applications are aplenty, from pizzerias to auto plants.

We've got some of both of them around here, don't we?

I'm posting the opening salvo in his book in an effort to interject some new thinking into this community's stale approach to economic development, one rooted in one part "woe is us," one part "gimme a subsidy," and one part "hang onto what we've got, regardless of the cost." It's no wonder WNY is in the mess it's in.

Read this post, watch the video, read the book, and get thinking about if and how the thinking behind WWGD? has application in our moribund regional economy. I won't know myself until I read the book, but I find the notion intriguing.


 

Here's how Jarvis starts out the book:

It seems as if no company, executive, or institution truly understands how to survive and prosper in the internet age.

Except Google.

So, faced with most any challenge today, it makes sense to ask: WWGD? What would Google do? In management, commerce, news, media, manufacturing, marketing, service industries, investing, politics, government, and even education and religion, answering that question is a key to navigating a world that has changed radically and forever.

That world is upside-down, inside-out, counterintuitive, and confusing. Who could have imagined that a free classified service could have had a profound and permanent effect on the entire newspaper industry, that kids with cameras and Internet connections could gather larger audiences than cable networks could, that loners with keyboards could bring down politicians and companies, and that dropouts could build companies worth billions? They didn’t do it by breaking rules. They operate by new rules of a new age, among them:

• Customers are now in charge. They can be heard around the globe and have an impact on huge institutions in an instant.
• People can find each other anywhere and coalesce around you—or against you.
• The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches.
• “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.
• 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.
• Enabling customers to collaborate with you—in creating, distributing, marketing, and supporting products—is what creates a premium in today’s market.
• 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.
• Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is.

Google’s founders and executives understand the change brought by the Internet. That is why they are so successful and powerful, running what The Times of London dubbed “the fastest growing company in the history of the world.” The same is true of a few disruptive capitalists and quasi-capitalists such as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook; Craig Newmark, who calls himself founder and customer service representative—no joke—at craigslist; Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; and Kevin Rose, creator of Digg. They see a different world than the rest of us and make different decisions as a result, decisions that make no sense under old rules of old industries that are now blown apart thanks to these new ways and new thinkers.

That is why the smart response to all this change is to ask what these disrupters—what Mark, Craig, Jimmy, Jeff, Kevin, and, of course, Google—would do. Google generously shares its own philosophy on its web site, setting out the “10 things Google has found to be true.”They are smart but obvious PowerPoint lines helpful in employee indoctrination (especially necessary when your headcount explodes by 50 percent in a year—to 16,000 at the end of 2007 and to 20,000 before the end of the following year): “Focus on the user and all else will follow,” Google decrees. “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.?.?.?.??Fast is better than slow.?.?.?.??You can make money without doing evil.?.?.?.??There’s always more information out there.?.?.?.??The need for information crosses all borders.?.?.?.” These are useful, but they don’t tell the entire story. There’s more to learn from watching Google.

The question I ask in the title is about thinking in new ways, facing new challenges, solving problems with new solutions, seeing new opportunities, and understanding a different way to look at the structure of the economy and society. I try to see the world as Google sees it, analyzing and deconstructing its success from a distance so we can apply what we learn to our own companies, institutions, and careers. Together, we will reverse-engineer Google. You can bring this same discipline to other competitors, companies, and leaders whose success you find puzzling but admirable. In fact, you must.

Any first impressions?

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