Business evolves

Blogging has been light because my computer is broken again, this time for realz. Gotta get a new one. That machine lasted me about four years, though, even if you subtract the month when it was broken. It had a good run. Anyhow, onwards.

Via Todd Defren’s Twittertoobz account, I found my way to this article by Joshua Gans about Google in the Hahvahd Business Review. I’ve been reading a fair amount of late about Google’s struggle with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and the rest of the growing companies that keep information proprietary and how that messes with Google.

Here’s Gans on how things changed:

But. But. Google was supposed to be different, folks. And what do you know? Like every start-up before it, it has matured and started to morph into a larger, more bureaucratic organization, concerned with threats and working to protect the core revenues. It was supposed to be different but, in fact, it is the same old story.

[snip]

It would be nice to argue that the answer is for Google to go back to the old, bottom-up Google model. At some level, it should try to preserve that culture, but it’s really hard to do. My point here is that the “this time it’s gonna be different” mentality that start-ups believe they are founding is wishful thinking. Eventually, a threat comes along that requires a coordinated response. Sometimes that response works — think about Microsoft and its long history of these things — and sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. It is difficult to say what will happen for Google, but a good dose of self-doubt that they are somehow above it all is a good place to start.

Entire article is well worth reading in full. It only takes a few minutes.

Gans nicely sums up my (inexperienced, uninformed) take on this stuff. It was easy for Google have that iconoclastic, almost post-business attitude when the design of the entire Internet meshed with their interests and business model. It’s a lot less easy to have that affable, laid-back attitude now that Facebook and the rest of the proprietary information organizations are threatening Google’s turf and, by extension, their profits.

There comes a point in time for every company, I think, when expanding in size and profits is no longer easy. The market changes, a competitor rises, whatever. The point is, when that time comes, all businesses will do the same thing: adjust to the new environment in an attempt to keep and eventually grow their share of the market. I think that’s what Google has been going through and will continue to go through as Facebook gets stronger and diversifies. In that sense, yeah, Google is growing up, or at least becoming more common. Even when the environment changes, the obligation to the shareholders doesn’t. And that means whatever change will best fulfill that obligation will go through, regardless of whether it means being “evil” or anything else.

And, as Gans does so well to point out at the end of the article, this was always going to happen. It happens to every company. It’s only a matter of time before it happens to Facebook, too.

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