In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives by Steven Levy (Review and Reflection)
The underlying book is prestigious effort of Steven Levy to unfold and explore some of the most fundamental components of business management. For comprehensive coverage of the topic, he has picked Google for exemplification. He not only narrates the Google’s story of success, but also highlights the contributing factors in critical and analytical manner. Current critical study on this book is divided into two sections. In the first section, readers are promised to be provided with basic understanding to the major undercurrents. It provides the review of the most fundamental ideas covered by the author. While, the second section is the attempt to identify the significance of the book for business students by analyzing how the takeaways identified by Levy provide strength to a corporate business strategy.
“In the Plex” by Steven Levy is a comprehensive book aiming to explore the magical impact of universally known giant search engine namely “Google”. Basically, the book can be divided into three parts with respect to the most basic themes including the way of thinking, operating, and influencing the lives adopted by the search engine, Google. These three thematic building bricks are further divided into the list of contents each throwing light on the role of Google from a different angle.
Searching for Google
In this section of his book, the author critically appreciates the most remarkable manifestation of Google, and it is “searching”. Searching has even surpassed the boundaries of dream and imagination with the emergence of Google. The search engine has created incredible mechanism for search and has made all kind of information available on one’s finger tips. It leaves none of the questions unanswered and none of the queries unsearched. Most of the times, it happens that user does not know what exactly he requires. He searches his vague idea on Google with the help of broken keywords, but the search engine, in response to this, shows the result on the initial pages that are in the best relevance with searcher’s desire. Not only this, but Google also enjoys the privilege of suggesting the best solutions to problems and issues in any term including health, psychology, repairing, etc.
Furthermore, several innovation brought in categorization has made the task of searching easier than ever before. For example, now users are facilitated with the options like “web”, “news”, “images”, “videos”, and “books” to search for the relevant collection of information under the required category.
It will be no exaggeration to say that the universe of information is lying in the lap of Google and each of its components is at the distance of appropriate keywords from users.
The World According to Google
This chapter deals with the Google’s founder, Larry Page’s perception about the moral role of Google. The author has been true lover of humanity since his very childhood, and it was this love for humanity that prompted him to build Google in conformity with good moral values. He never meant his invention to harm people in any aspect. However, he was faced by huge protest raised by people on the basis of certain apprehensions and fears associated with the digital development of this revolutionary search engine.
The strong opposition, even, took the matter to the Chin’s courtroom. They challenged the moral-friendliness of the search engine and expressed all their underlying doubts. For instance, the idea of Google to have all the books digitally uploaded in order to maximize readers’ convenience by providing them all scholarly data on one platform was strictly opposed. Protestants held that it could be translated into the demise of libraries, because the readers (having all the data digitally available) would lose the reason to buy books from the market. So, the search engine must be kept restricted to reviewing or providing the basic information about books to urge the readers to buy them instead of having them fully uploaded.
However, Page (the founder of Google) has never adopted any deliberate approach to moral corruption or threatening other businesses (as pointed out by opposing party in the courtroom). The basic motto behind the incorporation of Google was to serve the humanity and add to the convenience.
Google’s Methods of Earning
Since, Google, as a startup business, was free service provider; it was more than a challenge for it to gain economic stability. But, it had very shortly after its inception succeeded in creating bulk profit generating mechanism. But, it had been kept behind the curtains not to let any outsider know the secret of Google’s earning strategy. On the basis of this approach, the strategy was named “hiding strategy”. Commanding the employees to keep their mouths shut regarding Google’s earning policy was the initial part of selection procedure. However, everything came to light in 2004 when bankers required the executives of the search engine to provide full information regarding their sources of earning in conjunction with opening of banking accounts. It was certainly far more than can be expected from a startup business, which shot to more than $300.
Since then up till now, Google has discovered many innovative ways of generating profit including integration with many hardware and software companies including Microsoft, Google TV, Incorporation with Linux, etc. Google Edwards is playing key role in multiplying Google’s earning by generating $20 on per thousand clicks for every inorganic ad to be in first position, $15 for 2nd position, and $10 for the ad placed on third spot of the section of Google-page specified for sponsored links. In a nutshell, innovation is at the bottom of Google’s earnings.
Google’s culture is a paradox in itself. Some people, same as Marissa Mayer, consider Google out of control in its practices and hold childish approach of Page and Sergey responsible for the prevalence of this culture. Marissa establishes that Google’s culture, in true essence, is based on Maria Montessori’s philosophy of child liberty. According to this philosophy, every child must be given freedom to think creatively and do the things on his own, which confirms the naturalness of his actions and reactions. To Montessori, liberty was the better source of learning than dictation.
Marissa says that Page is following the same thought-scheme and the freedom of his search engine is the virtual demonstration of this idea. As viewed from critical angle, Google lacks discipline and control, which is the symbol of Page’s evangelistic approach towards freedom.
Emergence of Gmail
Google’s Moral Dilemma in China
Google has enjoyed excellent business relationship with China until they announced their unwillingness to apply their censorship to the Chinese searches on the basis of apprehensions stemmed out from hacker’s attack to some human right activists’ mail accounts. These attacks were suspected to be directed from the Government of China. Basing on this suspicion, Sergey declared that he would not feel reluctant even if he had to shut down his business activities in the country. Later on, the dispute was settled by mutual concession between the government and Sergey, and latter consented to follow the government’s regulations with regard to censorship on Chinese searches. But, Sergey clearly stated that his apprehension would not calm down until the true culprits behind the attacks (hacking) were discovered.
Google and Government
Google has always been in the good books of the government. The author has quoted various examples in which Barrack Obama, the president of the US, and many other governmental authorities have appreciated Google for its core services, innovations, cultural-friendliness, and several other characteristics. Not only this, but also Sergey and Page achieved numerous awards for their remarkable contribution to the development of technology.
IMPORTANCE OF THE BOOK FOR BUSINESS STUDENTS (REFLECTION)
“In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives” holds exemplary importance for the business students. The main idea of the author, Steven Levy, is to show by example how great leadership attributes can bring precision in business strategy. Implementation of great idea and right decisions taken at right time are the key to success and growth for any business. It was the core capability of business management that took the founder of the search engine to the heights of success. All chief factors that contribute to the formation of perfect business strategy are highlighted in the book. Following paragraphs aims to analyze their significance for the learners of business management.
Both pioneers of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin are blessed with extraordinary skills that give them license of great leadership. Buchheit, on page number 227, remarks that he was anticipating the quick downfall of Google when he was hired in the company. However, it was sheer planning and strategic management of Page and Sergey that not only kept it on track, but also made it be placed among some of the most prominently successful business in the world. Sims (2), also holds that any organization’s dream of success is subordinated with the role of their top management.
Corporate foresight is another active role player in the success of any business management plan (Portaleoni et al., 24). A touch of intuition can also be observed peeping through Page’s foresight in most of his decision. The best example is the purchase of Android from Rubin (the founder of Android) at such a critical time that no smart phone company was willing accepts it for free. Later on, this decision proved to be highly fruitful resulting in sale of the OS like hot cakes right after its successful integration with Google Mobile. Extensively positive outlook of Android is a strong indicator of its bright future.
According to Porter (5), comprehensive competitive analysis is always at the bottom of competitive advantage enjoyed by any organization. Google, since the very inception, enjoyed marginal competitive advantage over its chief rivals, and now is looking forward to asserting its monopoly as shown in the image below:
Business students must understand the fact that the founders of the search engine have always been in the pursuit of occupying dominating position in terms of technology for which they kept an eye on the core competencies of their competitors and strived hard to achieve differentiation. That is what kept/is keeping them ahead of the curve.
Ambition works like catalyst for any business strategy, so does it in case of Google’s. Page has stated again and again, “I always wanted to change the world”. Strength of his conviction is one of the most dominant features of Google’s business policy. Undefeated determination of the founders of Google promises far more innovative developments in the search engine as the 21st century passes by; because, to Page, today’s Google is in its initial stages of development.
Page and Brin have also shown great wisdom while encountered by disputing situations. Levy has picked the most noticeable example to show how beautifully they managed to resolve the issue of censorship with Chinese Government despite all their doubts and suspicions unclear. Firstly, Page took strict action (announcing the termination of censorship of the Chinese searches) on the Hackers’ attack on their mailing system targeting human right activists. But, later on, assessing the importance of the Chinese market for his business growth, he withdrew his decision. However, he adopted the middle-path and declared that his apprehensions would not rest until the true criminals behind the act of hacking were found out by the government. Sheer significance of the ability to handle disputes prompts to state that understanding the nature of dispute is one of the most important building blocks for any successful business strategy. Certainly, any wrong decision i.e. breakup taken at the time of Google’s moral dilemma in China could give high competitive advantage to their rivals, because China is one of their biggest market segments in the world.
Levy has quoted a plethora of examples in which Google is shown to have received the appreciations on governmental level. Obama is a great fan of it and considers it one of the most remarkable achievement of the computer science (Krotoszynsk, 449-450). The president of America humbly acknowledges the contributions of Sergey, Page, and all other key members constituting the team of Google. Government’s favor for Google confirms its ethical adherence and moral stability.
Decisions made by any organization are in proportionality with their capital policy. It implies that the organizations or corporations make their decisions in demanding situations keeping in view their profitability and investment. Management of Google has always been sharp and prompt in this context. Purchase of Android, launching of Google Edward, Google TV, and Gmail are the products of precision in decision making by Page and Sergey. The decisions have involved huge risks, but the business students must know that anticipated revenue is parallel to the risk involved in the decision making process. That is why Google has planted the flag of prominence in the field of Information Technology.
The emerging challenges posed by today’s dynamic business climate, which is divergent from old scenario, has necessitated for organizations to adopt global approach to the leadership. Massively large-sized corporations like Google are in exclusive need of this business formula. Page’s motto, “know the evil” is truly representative of his insight on cultural diversification management that falls in the category of global level leadership. Both Sergey and Page have made sure the observance of national laws of every country in which they are operating their businesses. Suffixes like .hn, .au, .pk, .in, etc in the domain name of Google confirms the region-wise compatibility of the operations of the search engine.
Krotoszynski Jr, Ronald J. "Transparency, Accountability, and Competency: An Essay on the Obama Administration, Google Government, and the Difficulties of Securing Effective Governance." University of Miami Law Review65 (2011): 449.
Levy, Steven. In the plex: How Google thinks, works, and shapes our lives. Simon and Schuster, 2011.
Lolyd, Alex. Search Engine Statistics January 2014. Feb. 2014. Online. 28 Jun. 2015. https://www.clicky.co.uk/2014/02/search-engine-statistics-january-2014/
Portaleoni, Claudio Gomez, et al. Corporate Foresight and Strategic Decisions: Lessons from a European Bank. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
Porter, Michael E. Competitive strategy: Techniques for analyzing industries and competitors. Simon and Schuster, 2008.
Sims, Ronald R. Organizational success through effective human resources management. Greenwood publishing group, 2002.