With all the talk about whether Google is the new Bell Labs (or isn’t), and the curiosity around their recent acquisition of Boston Dynamics, I thought it would be interesting to look at what Google says their mission is:
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
And here’s their philosophy statement What we believe:
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
The one that seems questionable given the breadth of their research and product development is #2 (It’s best to do one thing really, really well). They say:
We do search. With one of the world’s largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we’ve been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements to a service that already makes finding information a fast and seamless experience for millions of people. Our dedication to improving search helps us apply what we’ve learned to new products, like Gmail and Google Maps. Our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas, and to help people access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.
I think you can argue that Google Maps fits within the domain of search. I almost always start my local business searching there – even if I’m looking for hours-of-operation, phone-number or even the website link. Android, Chrome and Glass are about having some influence / control / protection over where people start their search journey. Without them it might have been possible for some other web-browser (desktop or mobile) to gain huge market share and direct search queries to a Google competitor. In that sense these investments are defensive around their primary search business.
As for robotics and autonomous cars – this is where it’s a stretch. These seem to be areas of innovation that Google is pursuing because they are big opportunities and they leverage existing Google assets (extensive map data, machine learning capabilities, etc). In a sense Google is best equipped to pursue them, so they’d be remiss not to.
I think doing one thing really, really well means making sure you’re #1 or #2 in your main/first business. Sort of like GE’s goal to only be in business areas where they can be #1 or #2. As long as Google is still doing really, really well in search, then its appropriate and smart for them to branch out into opportunities where their existing capabilities give them an advantage – sort of like Amazon branching into platform-as-a-service (Amazon Web Services) because they already built and managed a global web-scale automated platform to support their Amazon.com business.
Mission statements help to point a direction and energize the troops – they shouldn’t necessarily be used to kill off potential product / service ideas with big opportunities for real impact and value.
Better to grow the mission to accommodate new successes.