September 22, 2017 Focus area: Digital Transformation, Innovation & Growth

Be less like Google

Large organizations often try to be more like Alphabet (Google), Amazon, or other highly successful US tech companies. And why wouldn’t you want to be more like those companies? Alphabet is highly profitable after all. In the second quarter of 2017 the company had a net income of 3.5 billion dollars (1). Furthermore, the company employs some of the most talented engineers (2) and the company is still one of the most innovative firms in the world, even 20 years after it was founded (3).

Bad idea

So it’s not strange other large organizations try to be more like Alphabet. But that is actually a bad idea. Even though the company is extraordinarily successful, it is also ‘just’ a large corporation, similar to companies like Shell, Unilever or AirFrance – KLM. And each large company has its own share of weaknesses and problems. So it is in no way a ‘perfect’ company other organizations should strive to fully emulate. One of the troubles Alphabet is facing, is that they are still completely dependent on the revenue generated by their search engine business and the connected add business (4). They are investing heavily in new technology and new businesses, like Waymo (Google Car), Google Fiber or Gmail, but most of these new businesses fail to generate significant revenue. And most of these projects, especially the moonshots categorized under ‘other bets’, operate with large losses (5).

Unique

And being more like Alphabet Google is not only a bad idea, because even Alphabet has its own problems. It is also a bad idea because there can be only one Alphabet. Every company is wholly unique, it has a unique, history, culture, strategy and market. And that is why what works for Alphabet will only work for Alphabet. Its successes simply cannot be copied to other companies, because companies are not the same.

There is no easy way

It is more important that companies focus on themselves, analyze what makes them great and which weaknesses are inherently connected to their strengths. And then try to build on those strengths, or improve their weaknesses. Of course, it is possible to use certain lessons and best practices from other companies to improve your organization. But they always need to be translated and tailor made for the organization they are intended for. Unfortunately, there just isn’t an easy way to change or improve an organization, and it will definitely never work to try to ‘be more like Google’.