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How Google Works Summary

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MicroSummary: How Google works. How many times did you search this phrase on the internet?  Now, you have to stop doing this. And that’s because Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg are completely answering your question through their book… How Google works. 


Combining passion and contribution: the path to a wealthy & healthy company.”

How Google Works Summary

Google has built a reputation for itself, based on cutting-edge technology and integrity. Google undoubtedly deserves the top seat as being one of the companies that marked the beginning of the Internet Era.

Nowadays, it extended its reach in every country on this planet by covering vast preferences of different types of users.

This book summary will give you an insight into what is to come because any list containing internet-based companies will be incomplete without the presence of Google.

How Google Works” was published in 2014 by two leading figures: one of them was ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and the other one was Jonathan Rosenberg.

Your Company Needs To Encourage a Memorable Culture

How can you make your business more attractive to creative and intelligent people? The answer lies in the company’s culture, that is, in the values under which your business is built.

Your culture needs to be strong, and all your employees must understand it and work accordingly.

The culture of a company should be a pattern of behavior shared among all staff, as they go about their work. Google’s culture is based on the mission of the business.

It is summed up in one sentence: Organize the information of the world, making it accessible to all.

Because its mission is straightforward, employees know they do not need to ask permission to work in activities that are aligned with this culture.

In your company, instead of letting your culture develop by accident, you need to plan and promote it. Therefore, we must ask the founders and first officials:

  • What do we care about?
  • What do we believe in?
  • What do we want to be?
  • How do we want our company to behave and make decisions in the future?

By doing so, you will have honest answers and ideas that encourage creativity.

The three most important aspects of a creative company’s culture are natural interaction with colleagues; freedom for employees to speak their minds; and independence in decision-making.

Also, you need to figure out how to give your employees the freedom to make their own decisions. If you can not do this, at least ensure that you have a good reason to say “no.”

Defining your values is another important aspect of creating a healthy culture for your company.

For example, in 2004, Google’s founders created a document explaining the principles that guided the company. This step will help you create an environment that attracts the best talent.

Culture is a tool to attract people similar to what the company values, rather than people who only care about pay. Finding individuals who are motivated to work hard regardless of salary will help your business grow.

In 2002, for example, Larry Page got frustrated when looking for details about a bike called “Kawasaki H1B”.

While doing his Google search, he saw ads for lawyers willing to help immigrants get an American visa called “H1-B,” but received nothing on the bike.

Frustrated with that, he printed the pages and posted it on the whiteboard in Google’s kitchen, with the text “This ad sucks! “And went home.

A team of engineers saw this on a Friday. Although this team was not officially responsible for ads, they were inspired by the problem and worked on it that weekend.

By Monday they had solved the problem: ads should be organized based on their relevance and not just the value the advertiser pays.

This insight has become the basis for creating Google Adwords, Google’s largest revenue source.

That does not mean that Google inspires this kind of devotion, but the company culture attracts people who are motivated and dedicated problem-solvers.

Google’s Culture

Google has an interesting culture full of myths. Here are some cool things about the Google way of being inspired.

Their office is open and always crowded, maximizing interactions and energy. No one has private offices, not even the senior managers.

Teams are held together, not separated by functions. Everyone works, eats, and has fun, together. Chaos exists, but it is an expression of innovation and is encouraged.

People’s ideas are judged based on the merits of the subject itself and not by who suggested it.

Google’s new project teams are small, and many Google products that serve millions of people are developed by small teams, although eventually, they need larger teams for product maintenance/updates.

Google strives to organize the business around the individuals who make the most impact.

Nothing is based on function or experience, but on performance and enthusiasm, which attracts creative and intelligent professionals.

People do not need to ask permission to do interesting things.

Google creates a fun working environment, always with parties, music, and lots of free food.

The dress rules are pretty simple. They call it: You just need to be dressed. Do not be surprised if you find people in pajamas or slippers at company offices.

Jonathan wanted to present all the inside operations ongoing in Google, and ultimately give readers an insight of what was happening back there. In other words – to show Google’s machinery.

“How Google Works” underlines several ground rules used by Google’s executives in times of crisis to ensure rapid growth and constant improvement.

First of all, let’s have a small preview of these two authors’ professional backgrounds.

Starting with 2001 Eric Schmidt was CEO at Google for more than 10 years and his professional engagement was remarkable.

Since 2001, the company has been growing from a Silicon Valley start-up to a global technology leader with offices in more than 40 countries. Eric is now Google’s executive chairman.

Jonathan Rosenberg – currently an adviser to Google CEO Larry Page – joined Google in 2002. He was in charge of managing the design and development of the company’s consumer, advertiser, and partner products.

This is, in short, over a decade of experience of those two authors.

We are used to seeing Google as a mountain that’s making a large shadow for any hill that aspires to become higher. But what is there behind that mountain?

Corporate culture and strategies. Creativity and talent. Decision-making and communication. Innovation and facing disruption.

As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, says: <In the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.>”

You probably noticed that this book seems to be written in an informal style. It’s true.

I give you one more hint: you will also find here insider funny stories from Google’s history, part of this being shared here for the first time. Why did authors choose this approach?

Maybe because important lessons and valuable information are learned and treated easier in that way. After all, it’s easier for any of us to remember a joke rather than a solemn speech.

How Google Works Summary

There are some concepts analyzed here – in this book – that drew my attention. Don’t try to find chapters dedicated to each of these concepts.

It will be a total waste of time. And that’s because those concepts are interdependent. I will describe these in a few lines below, also leaving authors’ words speak for themselves.


Leading a team is a big issue. But only if you don’t manage it right. So, how much confidence should you have in your people? Should you let them innovate and find their own solutions?

The authors’ answer: a team leader needs to have confidence in his people. And he also needs to have enough self-confidence to let them identify a better way.

Leading a team is a challenge. How should you react when a valuable employee tells you he is leaving?

First, the best thing you can do is try to change his mind. Second: “congratulate him on the new job and welcome him to your company’s alumni network.”

And now it’s time to find out how big should be a team? I’ve just loved Jeff Bezos’ approach:

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, at one point had a “two-pizza team” rule, which stipulates that teams be small enough to be fed by two pizzas.”


Creatives have ideas. And this may make your business more valuable on the market. But how do creatives work?

Smart creatives thrive on interacting with each other. The mixture you get when you cram them together is combustible, so a top priority must be to keep them crowded.”

Creatives are innovative. This is a truism.

Creative ideas may generate growth for your company. This is a simple reality.

Creatives are valuable to your business. That’s the author’s point of view. I agree. Soon you’ll probably do the same.

If I give you a penny, then you’re a penny richer and I’m a penny poorer, but if I give you an idea, then you will have a new idea but I’ll have it too.”

Do Not Make Decisions Without Discussing Possibilities With Your Employees

In traditional companies, decision-making is usually hierarchical. Senior managers make important decisions, while others agree.

However, if you are fortunate enough to run a business with smart and creative employees, things will be different.

The decision-making process becomes as important as the decision itself because if the officials do not support the decision, it will not go forward.

A good example was when Google had to decide whether or not to enter the Chinese market.

In 2004, Google opened an office in China, despite the fact that it would need to comply with the Chinese government’s censorship requirements.

Traffic and revenue grew for a few years, but then Google was attacked by hackers in December 2009.

Google found that the hackers were sourced from China’s government, who were trying to access the personal information of human rights activists and political dissidents.

So Google executives met several times to discuss the situation and decided Google. cn would stop obeying the government’s censorship policies.

That would make Chinese Google lose traffic quickly, but it was the right thing to do.

Decision-making needs to be a team effort. This process is efficient because it involves all people and ensures that employees will support the final decision.

If you want to encourage this type of decision-making in your workplace, you need to create a way for each opinion and position to be considered and discussed.

As a manager, it is up to you to reinforce a discussion, not a decision.

In another situation, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin disagreed with the functionality of a new product.

In the end, none of the executives won the discussion, but after debating their views together managed to come up with a better solution.

Good decisions require consensus. But when everyone discusses different opinions, reaching a decision can take a long time.

Still, the timing is critical. Important decisions can and should be examined in detail, but it is still imperative to set deadlines so that decisions are not late.

For example, when Google was considering an agreement with AOL in 2002, Schmidt acknowledged the importance of that decision and set up daily meetings to deal with the matter for six weeks.

That way, your team would have enough time to discuss and debate all the options, but at the same time guarantee that a timely decision.


The main source of innovation is represented by the people. Not the competition.

Hiring smart and creative employees is about innovation. But is it possible to force one to be innovative?

Many companies try to force change artificially, for example by appointing an “innovation director,” but this approach tends to fail.

One of Google’s employees was a former Yahoo innovation director. His job was to stimulate innovation in the company by organizing presentations of new technologies for engineers.

This approach did not seem to work, and he left Yahoo and got a job at Google.

According to him, in his new job, he constantly innovated, and innovation was not imposed on other employees.

Nevertheless, if there is no way to encourage innovation, how can your business create innovative and unusual products?

Although you can not make your employees more innovative, you can also follow some tips to generate a climate that encourages innovation.

First, set challenging goals for your employees. Another way to encourage innovation is by being open to taking risks.

For example, in Google, 70% of the company’s budget goes to the main projects, 20% to partner projects, and 10% to new experiments.

In this way, even projects that seem risky still receive investments, which keeps innovation in the company.

Finally, if you really want to have an innovative business, let your employees do what they’ve been hired to do: be smart and creative.

That’s why Google allows each engineer to spend 20% of their time doing whatever they want. One of the company’s most successful products, Gmail was created by an engineer in his spare time.

In fact, being focused on your competition is more likely that “you will never deliver anything truly innovative.”

The most valuable result of 20 percent time isn’t the products and features that get created, it’s the things that people learn when they try something new.”

Retaining And Contracting Talents

Creative and intelligent people are the key to developing great products. So how could your business attract employees who fit that description?

For starters, hiring employees should be one of your priorities. In most organizations, hiring a new employee is the responsibility of the supervisor.

However, one person’s opinions can be highly subjective.

Also, most senior executives will not want to hire someone who looks smarter than themselves, so they can maintain the company’s status quo.

Google has realized that the best way to hire someone is to make decisions together, forming a committee.

A team reviews the candidates using many data and supporting materials such as interview reports, compensation history, curriculum, and referrals.

While all these supporting documents are valuable, hiring high-level employees also require imagination.

Looking at a resume and evaluating a candidate based on his experiences will not help you find the most attractive, intelligent, and adaptable employees.

In addition to the standard interview questions, ask the candidates about their interests and passions.

Find out what he does and what he cares about outside of work. Challenge the candidates with surprising questions.

How does Google find and hire the best professionals? The company has some interesting attitudes:

  • Google attracts people – job seekers receive resumes from their potential future co-workers, so the smart and creative will be attracted to the opportunity to work with great talents as well.
  • Google is always looking for enthusiastic people – which is the driving force of the smart and creative. So the interviewers try to get their candidates to talk about the things that matter most to them.
  • Google hires people with an appetite for learning – people who have a growth mindset and who will approach their tasks as an opportunity to learn new things.
  • Google tries to hire interesting people with different backgrounds – the kind of person who will not mind spending hours chatting at the airport if a flight is late.

Once you’ve hired someone creative and smart, what do you do to keep that person in the company?

This question is important since innovative and intelligent people are restless and ambitious. At some point, they may want to leave your business to try something new.

To prevent this from happening too soon, find ways to challenge and intellectually engage your employees.

That way, they will feel stimulated and motivated, which will suppress the urgency of leaving the company.

For example, when a good engineer wanted to leave Google, Schmidt persuaded him to stay, inviting him to attend important meetings with the founders.

Attending these meetings allowed the engineer to learn new things about the business, and as a result, he ended up staying with the company for another two years.

Develop Strategies That Tolerate Changes

Most CEOs think their companies need a business plan, but they are wrong. The reality is that more traditional business plans can lead to failure.

That is because the traditional plan does not give room for change. Managing a business requires you to respond to new challenges.

Let’s assume you have defined a long-term strategy for your technology company.

What if a new technology or a new competitor came up, demanding that you react quickly? You will not be so responsive if you are stuck with a flat plan.

That is why, in terms of strategy, you will be better prepared for the unforeseen ones if you create a foundation for your strategy rather than a static plan.

The difference is that a plan is a step-by-step guide to taking care of your business while a foundation is a guiding principle that will guide you.

When Jonathan Rosenberg wrote the founding strategy for Google in 2002, he initially planned to deliver to entrepreneurs a typical business plan.

However, he ended up writing a much more comprehensive document because he realized what helped guide employees in what to do.

He detailed three main points:

  • Each new product should be based on great technical insight: a new way of applying design or technology to lower the price or increase the functionality of a product.
  • Take care to create accelerated growth on a global scale, as competitors can take advantage of small benefits. The best way to scale up is to develop a platform: a combination of products and services that create new markets, bringing people together.
  • Be open. When you can, share information with the world.

Establishing these fundamental ideas has allowed Google employees to apply their talents and special skills to create innovative solutions to unexpected problems.


Create a product, ship it, see how it does, design and implement improvements, and push it back out. Ship and iterate. The companies that are the fastest at this process will win.”


Sometimes failure seems to be the most valuable lesson you can learn. Learning from mistakes may be a sign of wisdom but above this is a great resource for innovation.

Rephrasing failure will help you see new opportunities and find new ways to improve your business.

How Google Works PDF


Debbie Biondolillo’s approach (Apple’s former head of human resources) to defining a manager is brilliant. He said:

 Your title makes you a manager. Your people make you a leader.”

Achieving the title of “manager” definitely is a great and challenging opportunity.

Becoming a manager is almost a process. Eric describes a three-week rule for a fresh new start in the management field:

  • “for the first three weeks don’t do anything”
  • “listen to people, understand their issues and priorities”
  • “get to know and care about them, and earn their trust”

From my point of view, there is also a fourth rule that should be added. This rule says that you should take into account facing the mirror, and trying to understand how your employees see your manager skills. In short:

Make sure you would work for yourself.”

I’ve enjoyed reading this book. I bet you’ll do the same. And I must confess that one nugget was stuck in my mind and followed me while I did my job these days. I’ll share it with you and hope it will have the same effect.

Like this summary? We’d Like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

How Google Works Quotes

It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness. Click To Tweet Make sure you would work for yourself. Click To Tweet To innovate, you must learn to fail well. Learn from your mistakes. Click To Tweet You should hire the best engineer you can find, regardless of her coding preference, because if she’s the best she can down enough Java to C how to make the Python Go. Click To Tweet The most valuable result of 20 percent time isn’t the products and features that get created, it’s the things that people learn when they try something new. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

This book presents an opportunity that allows a full access to lessons learned and valuable advice regarding products, human resources, and openness to new. You will have the pleasant feeling that you are peeking at what’s happening in Google as a company.

The feeling that somebody is sharing a great secret and also allows you to use it in your favor.

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