Google: Hobbled by genius

Aug 31, 2011

On Monday we saw how Steve Jobs genius is clearly an important element of Apple’s success. Recent developments elsewhere in Silicon Valley indicate that for one of their neighbors the opposite is the case: for Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s genius is highly problematic.The reason is simple, but fundamental: Steve Jobs is a Visionary, while Page and Brin are both Processors. This means that Jobs’ genius makes landfall as an all-embracing vision – aesthetically, functionally and emotionally appealing, while the Google founders’ genius produces a system, a process, something intellectually-correct but emotionally null.

Nothing wrong with either approach of course, except for one thing: While processes scale, only visions procreate. Google can grow its search revenues to almost unimaginable amounts, but fail again and again and again and again to replicate that success in other areas.

Can you imagine Apple failing that often, successively, with new products? Instead it has birthed new idea after new idea after new idea.

Brin and Page are hobbled by the curse of genius – they need to be the smartest guys in the room. And you can be smart forever without once repeating your early success.Problematically, things are about to get much, much worse for Google. Processor-dominated organizations slide quickly out of Predictable Success and into Treadmill. The only way to stop from falling catastrophically into The Big Rut is to fill the place with strong Visionaries and give them their head. Instead, Google has just doubled down on its Processor culture – flooding the organization with more than twice as many P’s as they already have.

The result? Say goodbye to the few true Visionaries clinging on by their fingertips – watch for a growth in the already-happening mini-exodus of maverick long-timers in the next few months – and with it any residue of true vision.

Google is about to become the organizational equivalent of prematurely arthritic: hobbled by genius.