Yesterday I once again drove down to Google, but this time it wasn’t to do a set of interviews for the book, it was to read from the book to perhaps the most demanding audience I’ve ever encountered – a room full of Googlers, nearly 200 in all.
I was a bit nervous. While I think the book is fair, and clearly acknowledges the importance and power of Google, it also has more than its fair share of reporting on the negative aspects of the company’s astonishing rise – from privacy concerns to allegations of arrogance and self dealing. Would I be booed off the campus?
It didn’t help my anxiety to see a gaggle of folks in the audience who also were in the book or helped me in one way or another – from Louis Monier and Peter Norvig to Raymond Nasr, Steve Langdon, and Eric Case.
But my concern was overblown. I had a great time, and I think the folks in attendance did too. I read selections from the early years, as well as my riff on the future of Google. And the questions, man, the questions were challenging and very, very thoughtful. They ranged from “if we build the Google Grid, and succeed, what do we do then?” (answer – I have no idea!) to “What would you do if you were running Google?” (answer: buy a video asset and set it free, more on that soon). Another good question: “What might make Google fail?” I wrote about that in the book – two things – one is lack of direction – when you encourage thousands of folks to dream and provide them the chance to execute on those dreams, a company can lose focus. And the other is simply managing growth – the company is hiring more than ten folks a day.
At the end, Eric Schmidt came up and said hello, and we chatted about the book and my visit. I signed a lot of books, and I asked each person who came up what division they worked in and how long they’d been there. The average time of duty? About six months. A very young, very fast growing company indeed.
I am very thankful to Karen Wickre for inviting me down. It was the highlight of the book tour so far. Of course, week after next I am going to Microsoft and Amazon. That should be interesting as well!