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What makes Google go?

Updated Friday 12th February 2010

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt explains what he believes drives his company - but he might be being over-modest, suggests The Open University's Fiona Ellis-Chadwick.

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We think of Google as a fast innovator. We think our advantage is that we understand what we’re doing and we’ve done it a lot and we can move the ball forward more quickly than our competitors.

So our sustainable advantages really depends on whether we can continue the innovation. The other advantages that traditional investors have we don’t really have, there’s not a lot of patents, there’s not a lot of barriers to entry, it’s very easy for consumers to leave Google to go to a competitor so we cant really lock them in.

Furthermore, by policy we don’t allow it, in fact we have a program to liberate your data if you want to take it away from Google. So it’s part of our trust relationship. Our users’ trust not only can they use us but we won’t misuse their data, but we can also give them their data if they want to switch. That keeps us on our toes.

So for us the pressure around maintaining our leadership is around this core ability to innovate quicker than anyone else.

Froogle is a product we did about five years ago and it was an example of what Google does well. We tried something, it was successful for a while, the market changed, we didn't quite see how to evolve it and so we literally replaced it by product search that’s embedded in our normal search results.

It’s a very good example of how a small team could do something special, we could learn from it and then integrate that into our core results.

For Fiona Ellis-Chadwick, Google's ability to add value to its ideas are as important as the ideas themselves

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What’s interesting about Google is, yeah, it’s nice to stay ahead of the game, innovating all sorts of interesting applications, the maps that get us from A to B, even, for myself, Google Scholar. Where do I go? The university library first port of call? No. Google Scholar, that’s where I find my research articles.

So yeah, they’re a great innovative company, but I think there’s more to it than that because to stay ahead in such competitive markets as IT high tech markets are, Google’s got added value.

It’s got great IT resources which it’s maximised the advantage from that, but also it’s about the capabilities, and those capabilities come from the people within the organisation, the people who come up with the ideas, the people who actually think hey, wouldn’t it be great if...?

Now, from what I understand, Google’s a fantastic place to work because they have in place opportunities to break out, to relax, to chill and to come up with these fantastic ideas.

So, from my opinion, that’s part of what Google is doing and I think, dare I say it, that to say that it’s just its innovation is actually selling short what the company does and how it achieves and stays ahead.

 

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