Maybe Not The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

Pretty much ever since I’ve entered the workforce, the company to beat has been Google.  They routinely turn up as the most respected/feared/innovative company out there.  They grow by leaps and bounds and suck the best talent up across the world.  They inspire fear, loathing, envy, jealousy and just about every other emotion possible under the sun.

So how’d they do this?  Well, a combination of great ideas, timing and luck.  PageRank was genius.  Yahoo didn’t agree to buy them.  Twice.  MapReduce gave them scale.  And now they mint money.

And that has meant that they’ve been the greatest place to work.  Ever.  An engineering-driven company where each person gets free food.  The chance to work with the smartest people on earth.  And, if you’re an engineer, 20% of your time to pursue whatever you want.

Until now.  Now they’re cutting back on the 20% time.  According to the WSJ

So with the U.S. economy in a recession, Google is ratcheting back spending and cutting new projects. “We have to behave as though we don’t know” what’s going to happen, says Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. The company will curtail the “dark matter,” he says, projects that “haven’t really caught on” and “aren’t really that exciting.” He says the company is “not going to give” an engineer 20 people to work with on certain experimental projects anymore. “When the cycle comes back,” he says, “we will be able to fund his brilliant vision.”

Also, maybe the work-life balance at Google isn’t that great.  Schmidt told the McKinsey Quarterly:

For senior executives, it’s probably the case that balance is no longer possible. I would love to have balance in my life except that the world is a global stage and, when I’m sleeping, there’s a crisis in some country, and I still haven’t figured out how not to sleep.

This is a real shame.  I’m a huge Google bull and would hate to think that they’re going to become “just another company”.  Part of the allure and inspiration of the company is that they’ve done stuff completely differently from the rest of the world and made it work.  Let’s hope they don’t become a company full of drone engineers and needlessly hard-charging executives.  Sounds like a dull old bank…