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WWGD? April 21, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews, Technology.
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What Would Google Do?It’s an interesting exercise: can you write a book about Google without actually writing about Google? Jeff Jarvis has demonstrated that this may very well be possible with his finely authored book What Would Google Do (WWGD)?

Notwithstanding the title, WWGD? isn’t an in-depth look at the corporate and business strategy emanating from Mountain View. Neither is it a compendium of interviews with the key personalities at the helm of Google, nor is it a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on inside the famed Googleplex.

Instead, Jarvis’ book is an examination of all that Google implies for businesses and society. Hence, it attempts to offer perspective on what technologies in the age of Google have helped make possible — the democratization of information, the ease with which search can be conducted, and the shift of control from companies and brands to consumers an end-users. In this sense, “Google” becomes shorthand for much of what has become recognized as Web 2.0; yet it is a well-justified choice given that few other companies have shaped the way we approach the Internet like Google has.

At the same time, the book inevitably touches on some core components of Google’s philosophy and corporate culture known to the public: its penchant for keeping products in beta, its policy of allowing employees to devote twenty percent of their time to personal projects, and (of course) its audacious commitment not to be evil. In so doing, Jarvis cogently makes the case that better approaches to how things are usually done can very well begin by asking a very simple question: “What would Google do?”

The book is arguably split evenly along both lines. It begins with a discussion on how the world has changed in the Google age (that waxes philosophical at times) and ends with an application of Jarvis’ core question to a variety of settings/industries/business models. Overall, WWGD? is both timely and important, equally appropriate reading for today’s netizen technophiles as it is suited to corporate retreats (highly recommended). More fundamentally, it offers a very compelling framework and worldview to work with. Who would have thought that a company that set out to organize the world’s information would also end up providing us with myriad ways to do things differently and better?

What would Google do, indeed.

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