Book: What Would Google Do?

I am starting to make some progress through my pile of summer reading as detailed in this week’s Times Educational Supplement Scotland and  finished ‘What Would Google Do? by Jeff  Jarvis over the weekend.

Since visiting Google HQ in Mountain View, California last August I have been  interested in how this company, which is barely 11 years old, is contributing to the remaking of our economy, culture and society. Is Google the corporartion of the future?  I described it earlier as like a university run by the students. What are the implications for education if success is measured on the basis of 21st century creativity, innovation and ingenuity rather than passing exams that test 19th century skills and knowledge?

Jarvis writes the new media column for The Guardian and keeps the blog. His own post on the book talks about reverse engineering the Google approach and then applying the principles to a range of industries.

Jarvis starts the book by picking out what he calls ‘Google Rules’ which include:

  • Put customers  in charge  – they can be heard around the world and make a massive impact on companies
  • The mass market has been replaced by a mass of niches
  • Traditional product marketing has been replaced by conversations
  • Enabling customers to collaborate is the new premium service/product
  • Build networks and platforms
  • Openess is the key to success

Jarvis then considers how Google applies these rules across its business and provides a fascinating insight into how the company works and the trends it is both driving and adapting to. The section on how Google ads work is worth the cost of the book in itself. I found it absolutely fascinating to see the maths behind Google ads. Google has reinvented advertising, disrupting the old economic model that newspapers and tv have relied on in the process.

The section ‘If Google Ruled the World’ is a speculative piece as Jarvis considers how the Google approach might be applied to everything from the media, retail and manaufacturing to education and public institutions. At times the argument is a bit thin and to his credit Jarvis accepts the limits of both the approach and his imagination. Again the attempt is well worth it and full of valuable insights about the trends we can expect to see over the next few years.

As a final thought I noted that Google looks for people with 5 sets of skills:

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Communication skills
  • Willingness to experiment
  • Playing in teams
  • Passion and leadership

How well are we preparing our children, young people and students for this world? How well would a Scottish school leaver or university gradute be able to compete in this new world?


  1. Hey! I need to get my book back.. that you totally STOLE off my desk! Glad you enjoyed it too 🙂

  2. I think the term is long-term loan. Promise to give you it back after the summer. Well worth reading and thank you for letting me take it off your desk without asking …