I have been puzzled about Google’s inability to do well in the social media space. I have watched them take over Blogger and instead of making it better and more relevant, they managed to lose market share. There were another string of failures like Dogeball, Jaiku, Lively, Buzz and Wave. Even Orkut, the largest social network in Brazil, is now losing the Brazilians to Facebook. I have seen several of my friends migrate from Orkut recently. It wasn’t until a recent article in FastCompany profiling Larry Page, Google’s CEO, that I got a clue into the search giant’s ineptitude at social media. As it turns out, Larry does not use social media. Now it all makes perfect sense.
Organizational culture is driven from the top. It makes sense that what the leadership values, their passion and interests get researched, funded and developed. It’s interesting to me that such a large and entrepreneurial business as Google where workers are given free time to work on pet projects, still manages to fail in what has become the hottest and fastest growing sector of the internet. Interestingly the founders of Twitter and Foursquare are former Google employees. But it wasn’t until they left their jobs at the Googleplex that they were able to create their social software that has changed the way we communicate.
The implications here are many. But for me there are two critical ones. First, as a leader of my group, I will determine the culture and the emotional intelligence of my entire organization. Consciously or subconsciously I will hire, fund and develop people who share some of my value and interests. Secondly, those who are passionate about something other than what their organization’s DNA will be frustrated in their jobs until they find a place that aligns more closely with their passion.
As Google seems to be proving to us, not even free time to work on any project, a massive budget, and brilliant people can create products outside the core interests of the organizational leaders. My assumption based on personal experience is that bottom up movement can only occur when there’s strong buy in from the top.
Have you ever been in a situation where you tried to convince your superior to try something new? How did it workout?