Wired has a very interesting profile this month of Larry Page, the hopeful savior of Google. While yes, they are a $30B in revenue company, there’s no denying that they seem to have stagnated under the weight of being a big company.
The hope is that this culture will return to the company:
Page wanted everyone at Google to think big. It was a defining habit for him. When someone pitched an idea, Page would invariably counter with a variation that was an order of magnitude more ambitious…At that point, Schmidt put an avuncular hand on Page’s shoulder and brought him back to the real world. Now, with Page as CEO, that hand is less likely to be there.
For anyone who has worked at large companies, it’s inspiring to see how the founders are simply willing to throw out conventional wisdom to do something great.
Rather than assuming the unscalable task of answering users one by one, Page said, Google should enable users to answer one another’s questions. The idea ran so counter to accepted practice that Griffin felt like she was about to lose her mind. But Google implemented Page’s suggestion, creating a system called Google Forums, which let users share knowledge and answer one another’s customer-support questions. It worked, and thereafter Griffin cited it as evidence of Page’s instinctive brilliance.
Even if they fail at times, it’s about the learning in the process:
Page has one task that may indeed prove to be impossible: making a company of more than 24,000 employees act like a startup. Page and Brin have long been obsessed with keeping Google nimble—an impulse that sometimes leads them toward simple denial. As early as 2001, as the company reached 400 employees, Page worried that a growing layer of middle managers would bog it down. So he and Brin came up with a radical solution: They decided to do away with managers entirely. The HR team begged them not to, but the founders went ahead with the plan. When it soon became clear that the idea was a disaster—more than 100 people were reporting directly to an overwhelmed head of engineering—Google quietly reinstated the managers. But it was only the beginning of a long struggle to maintain the speed and hunger of a small company even as it grew.