This I find quite worthy of comment. More after breakfast…
AOL is getting new leadership again, just two years after the outgoing executives were chosen to turn around the struggling dial-up and content company.
Google Senior Vice President Tim Armstrong will take over as chairman and chief executive, replacing Randy Falco, said Time Warner, AOL’s parent company. Ron Grant, AOL’s president and chief operating officer, will leave with Falco after a transitional period of a few weeks.
Kara has an interview here. In it, Tim says:
“For me, it is a great opportunity to go to what I consider a top-five Internet brand…I am looking forward to taking what I have learned at Google and seeing what I can bring to really help AOL.”
One of the things Armstrong might bring is a spin out, Kara writes, and that is certainly something I’d welcome. (Type “set AOL free” into Google, and see why. I wrote that FIVE years ago).
But Tim’s leaving Google strikes me as yet another signal of how much Google as a company has changed. Good people, whether engineers or top executives, are leaving the company to do other things, regardless of how wonderful the place is, how wealthy it made them, or how hard the company strives to create a culture that encourages retention.
I’ve had several discussions with folks who’ve left Google lately. Here’s a direct quote from one of them, who is starting a new search related company: “It’s very hard to take risks at Google.”
I bolded that statement because it strikes me as poignant, and telling. I pressed as to why that is, and the founder told me that Google is probably “the best large company in the world to work for” but that it is driven by its current search and Adwords businesses.
Does that sound familiar? It should, if you are a watcher of the IT industry. Replace “search and Adwords” with “Windows and Office.”
Around ten years into Microsoft’s existence, good people starting leaving the company (and, not surprisingly, about five years after its IPO…). Not because Microsoft was a bad place to work, quite the contrary was true in fact. But because the company was too big, or too slow, or too indifferent to the ideas they had. It’s not a rap on large companies, it’s a fact of being a large company – you can’t run in every direction your employees might want to go.
It’s been five years since Google’s IPO. The company is big, and despite all of its efforts, it’s getting slow. It has to, in order to protect that which brought it to greatness. (For background, read my piece from 2005 about the worm turning. In it I write: Can the company shift its culture and avoid the fate which ultimately hobbled Microsoft? That, more than anything else, will define the next chapter in the company’s fascinating story.)
Instead of trying to retain great talent, perhaps Google should encourage them to leave. Start a different kind of founder’s award – one that seeds new startups. Given all the talent and all the interesting new companies springing up from the fertile soil of ex-Google land, I’d wager that fund would do damn well.