radical Insights.

Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

Google’s Downfall And What We Can Learn From It.

Mar 7, 2023

Praveen Seshadri, former founder and CEO of no-code company AppSheet, which was acquired by Google in 2020, recently left Google – on the day his 3-year mandatory retention period ended.

On his way out he wrote a scathing summary of all the problems he encountered at the Google mothership. His Medium post “The maze is in the mouse” is well worth the read — as it points to a series of common challenges not only at Google but organizations everywhere.

I worked at Google in 2013, seven years before Seshadri sold his startup to the company, and left 90 days after joining – primarily for pretty much the exact reasons outlined in Seshadri’s article: (1) No mission, (2) No urgency, (3) Delusions of exceptionalism, and (4) Mismanagement.

The plight of Google comes down, in my eyes, to the classic Innovator’s Dilemma (Clayton Christensen) – a company making too much money doing the thing it has always done (in Google’s case: Search), lack of competition in the marketplace (leading to a lack of urgency), combined with not-so-great management. Add to this a crusty layer of management processes gained over the many years of operating in a stable market, plus an inbred hesitancy of taking risks (and the active discouragement of doing so), and you find yourself in a situation, which to be quite frank, many companies find themselves in.

I have come to believe (and it has become a focus area for our ongoing research here at be radical) that the only way out of this situation is a combination of unrelenting, visionary leadership and organizational structure. When it comes to the former, I am reminded of Ron Shaich, the founder and former CEO of Panera Bread, saying, “our approach has always been to discover today what will matter tomorrow and then to transform our company into a future that is unfolding before us.” Our friend Kevin Starr, executive director of the Mulago Foundation, crystalizes this in his verb/target/outcome structure of the eight-word mission statement.

We will dig (much) deeper into this topic over the course of the following months. For now – start with your mission. Can you clearly and concisely formulate your mission? Do your people agree? If not – what can you do to turn your mission statement into the bright, shining North Star it ought to be? (via Pascal)