8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The title of Jeff Jarvis's What Would Google Do? book is a deliberate echo of the American phrase, "What would Jesus do?" Whilst for Christians asking what Jesus would do in particular situations makes sense, does Google have a similar role of authority over everyone's business lives for Jeff Jarvis's question to make sense?
At first, it may appear that the answer is obvious. Google is hugely successful. Google is very different from many companies that have gone before. Lots of firms talk about wanting to be the next Google. Google makes lots of money. Google has lots of users. And so on. So surely trying to learn from Google makes sense?
But probe into that question more deeply and the situation is rather more complicated.
First, there's the traditional outlier issue. Google is unusually large and profitable. So is it a rare exception from which the rest of us therefore cannot learn that much or is it really the path-breaker for the rest of us to follow?
Second, there's the question of permanence. There have been many firms who have briefly been top of the pile, widely admired and the focus of numerous books telling people how to be like them. In the computing and internet area, there have been several waves with the previous dominant companies usually disappearing from the scene. Microsoft is highly unusual in having stayed on top for so long. IBM and Apple both soared and crashed and soared again. All three in their different ways have stood the test of time, whilst Google is sitll a relative newbie. So if you want to learn lessons for the future, why not turn to Microsoft, IBM and Apple instead or at least in addition to Google?
Therein lie both the best and the most frustrating aspects of Jeff Jarvis's book. To his credit, the book acknowledges the existence of firms such as Apple which are highly successful and don't follow the Google route. As Jarvis himself says of Apple:
"Apple flouts Jarvis' First Law. Hand over control to the customer? You must be joking. Steve Jobs controls all ... Apple is the opposite of collaborative ... The company could not be more one-way and less transparent."
And so on. Many books full of breathless excitement about the future overlook even the really obvious counter examples. To Jarvis' credit he doesn't, but what makes the book frustrating it that he both only considers a very narrow range of exceptions and then also largely dismisses them as one-off exceptions. Look again though at the Fortune 500. Those "exceptions" are actually dominant when it comes to running successful large businesses. It is Google that is much more the exception.
He himself admits - in an eminently likable way - that it's not all about doing things like Google:
"I confess: I'm a hypocrite. If I had followed my own rules - if I had eaten my own dog food - you wouldn't be reading this book right now, at least not as a book. You'd be reading it online, for free, having discovered it via links and search. You'd be able to correct me, and I'd be able to update this book with the latest amazing stats about Google ... But I did have to make money from a publisher's advance. That is why you are reading this as a book. Sorry."
Where the book works best is where Jeff Jarvis makes points that aren't just followed by Google, but by an increasing number of other large firms, as with the idea of thinking distributed: get your content or your service out in front of people in as many different places and formats and via as many different routes as possible. It's not just Google whose audience is far more than simply the people who come to the main website.
Google is also rather less saintly that Jarvis paints it. He's lucky that his experience of Google is that, "Its stuff just works. I rarely hear people complain about them". Take a look at the streams of complaint online from people who have had problem with Google's services such as Blogger and been unable to get a response and you will see that the story is much more mixed.
The book has many good points, including the first hand account of how Jeff Jarvis fell out with Dell, laid into them online and so triggered one of the most frequently quoted case studies as the incident revolutionised Dell's approach to online engagement. Not bad at all for one unhappy customer.
It also picks up many persuasive examples of how the Google way of doing things could change other sectors, such as the restaurant one. Imagine a restaurant where on the menu you could see what other diners though of different dishes and which bottles of wine they chose to go with the main course you're going to have. Imagine the immediate benefits for the restaurant in terms of knowing which dishes work and which don't, and the attraction for diners of a richer - but useful - set of information. Then get more adventurous and imagine letting people suggest changes to the recipes and have social networks develop amongst diners to keep them coming back.
So whilst I'm dubious about the underlying premise of the book, there are plenty of individual examples and colour in to make What Would Google Do? a lively read likely to stimulate many ideas.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2010
In this book Jeff Jarvis attempts to dissect why Google has become the fastest growing company in the history of the planet. He studies their laws and ethos and then applies it to other industries, showing how they can `googlify' themselves for the post internet world. To many extents this book succeeds, except for a couple of major failings.
I regularly listen to Jeff on Leo Laporte's Twit (This Week in Tech) network which is worth seeking out if you're not aware of it, where he shows he is the right author for this book. He has years of experience in the entertainment and internet industry and has a deep understanding of Google's methods.
I had high hopes for this title, that I would walk away enlightened, with new business ideas. I did. However I'm not as sure of them as I perhaps should be. You see Jeff explains why `everything should be searchable and linkable', why `you can't beat free', why `atoms are the old method, internet is the new'. So why is Jeff publishing this as a book, not a free, advert supported eBook or a website? Money, that's why. He says it himself in the book. So if you can't practice what you preach (and it's very preachy), why should I believe your other advice Jeff? Is your book not available free online because that method doesn't work? Because it isn't viable?
Jeff talks about web content and how the mass of niches will beat the old system - being able to find what you want rather than being told. Which is accurate, but he largely ignores the argument of quality over quantity, that the mass of niches will only work if great content is produced and wins out. For the most part he ignores that the reason Google succeeds is because they make great quality products for free. How many people can afford to do that? Not Jeff, he's got my money.
Lastly, he talks about the power of the masses, the bloggers, how customer services (CS) is everything. How a company should spend it's money on CS, not advertising, let your fans be your adverts. Fine point. But if that happened, Google, who's revenue stream is advertising, would die a horrible death.
There is much to like about this book. It really does give a good snapshot of how marketing and the internet is changing and should be read by every CEO to understand the power great products and good customer service. Just don't expect it to change your business models, yet.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Let me start off with stressing that I think this is an interesting book and I'm very happy to have read it. There are undoubtedly some great and even necessary observations on customer relations, business strategies etc. for the current market; We should think distributed instead of central, listen to the customers instead of claiming to be all-knowing, accept that customers have a free will and do not like to be categorised and mass-marketed, be a platform others can build upon, not underestimate the power of the individual and their relations, realise that the middleman's days are over and that stuff sucks etc. - all good and - for the most part - pretty sound advice and something many business owners could do with learning.
BUT I also think there are some problems with the book:
1/ I don't actually feel I know more about Google the company after reading it. Yes, I know how successful, huge, popular, innovative, brave, etc. it is and the fantastic products it has either launched or purchased and allowed people to develop to become the mastodont it now is and I have the greatest respect for that and I absolutely love some of their products, but when Jeff Jarvis talks about how companies should be transparent to their customers/users, does that really apply to Google? There are a lot of questions I am sure people would like to ask the company and which are not answered here - e.g. what exactly does Google do/intend to do with the information it gathers about its users? We put a lot of trust in one organisation to handle all this information with care and without doing evil.
2/ I am not comfortable with the author being so obviously pro Google and rather uncritical in some (many) of his statements. And I can't help but think that Google's way is not really that easily adaptable for other - smaller - businesses. Actually the fact that Jarvis himself has chosen to have the book published instead of giving it away for free on his blog is a case against "Free" as a business strategy or even the "death of the middleman" in the sense that he uses an agent to get a better deal. He admits to as much in the book, but that doesn't stop him from going on and on about how Google's strategies could and should work for everybody. As to stuff - well, I kind of think stuff is necessary, but I do see the point he is trying to make.
3/ As I mentioned earlier, he makes good sense a lot of the time and it IS an interesting read whether you agree or not, so I didn't want to miss out by not finishing the book, but it took me a while - it was structured almost like a collection of blogs rather than a coherent book which makes for some repetition and breaks the flow. Another thing is the constant mentioning of interesting sites. This is actually a good thing, but I kept wanting to look up the sites mentioned and this of course didn't do much for the reading flow!
4/ He spends much time emphasizing how users think as individuals, want to be treated as such and how the companies need to listen to the users and that this in part is a result of Google-world. It might be so, but don't we also run a risk of giving rise to an even higher degree of homogenization than the branding of yesteryear if everybody uses the same platform to develop their programs and uses the same search machines to get the answers to their questions. In order to gain that individuality, I would think that the users need to be pretty media/Internet savvy and have the time to spend on doing the required research - I think that maybe he has to remember that not everybody is a superuser like him and therefore there will still be room for more traditional businesses - at least for now!
Before I finish, I just want to extend a big thank you to Google for their maps - I would never have found the Meetup yesterday without it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2010
I think that title of the book was probably not the first choice from the author.
The first title Jarvis probably thought of was "The cultural difference between Americans and Brits". The first few chapters are full of example stories of how Jarvis bought a Dell computer, complained, and ended up interviewing Michael Dell (the founder of Dell) himself, and how Jarvis have advised most of the biggest companies on the Internet in ways they could improve.
Jarvis is one of those people who always seems know someone at every company in the World, and probably worked there (sorry, advised them to make them better) at some stage too.
If you (and I'm talking to Brits here) can stand those types of bold claims and self promotion, of which I'm not disputing the accuracy of the claims -- just how liberally they're used through the book; you'll move on to the second part. This part deals with the actual title - how would Google run a restaurant, a hospital, a law firm, and many other industries.
Jarvis is quite creative with his thoughts, although if you any of the industries you can't help but admire his naivety at lack of understanding that industry. That naivety is precisely at the core of how Jarvis thinks Google approach any industry though - they reinvent it specifically without wanting to understand how it's been done before.
The final part of the book is a long essay into what Jarvis thinks is good and bad about the Internet, and full of promotion about his blog - why he blogs, how he blogs, why he's so great - and then we're back to that same American style which is probably admired in USAland and sneered at in the UK.
WWGD (as Jarvis calls the book) is an OK read. The book is extremely simplistic - for example it lightly touches with the issue of WHY Google goes into certain industries (to capture more search traffic, more personal/crowd/industry insight data) - he only deals with the end user's perspective. If you work for one of the industries that Jarvis uses as a case study of being Google-ised, you'll sit there nodding your head saying to the book "No, that's not how my industry works" - which is the whole point of the book really.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
WWGD - What would Google Do - is a book about the new ways that internet is changing our lives, and how the best to benefit from it. Despite its title, this is not a book about Google, at least not in a sense that it makes any effort to deeply analyze and try to explain in nonobvious terms the source of Google's success. Recently I came across a picture online which depicts a small store somewhere in India that without any shame or sense of propriety named itslef "Google." Google has indeed become a global fenomenon and one of the strongest brands in the world, and it is not surprising to find people trying to profit from being associated with it in any way imaginable. After reading this book, one can't help feel that the use of Google was a similar ploy on the part of the author. The book is filled with case studies and examples of where an online company supposedly benefited from emulating a "Google" model of doing things, even when that connection is tenuous at best. Oftentiumes, as in the case of Facebook for instance, this is downright ridiculous: Facebook is louded for opening up its application development system, while in fact Facebook is a paragon of the "old" way of approaching content on the internet - a closed garden, not an open platform. Although there are indeed many problems with the way that many old online companies were doing business, it is far from clear that the Google model is a panacea that fits every company and internet technology business model equally well. In fact, to this day Google has been unequivocally successful at doing exactly one thing - search.
The book also suffers from not having a clear focus. There are many interesting and novel ides thrown around, but it is unclear what ties them all together. The writing style is fairly accessible and if you want to read something from one of the insides of the new online media world, this would be as good a read as they come. But don't expect to get any concrete ideas about either the inside scoop on how Google works or for your next business venture. One gets a sense that the author has absorbed way too much jargon and hype in order for this to happen.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2009
This is a fantastic book that really gets you thinking about not just Google but the way the internet is changing the way we live. Jeff Jarvis writes in an engaging and chatty style and, despite his technical knowledge, never lapses into jargon. Given his journalistic background, this is what you would expect. He's produced a book that will both stimulate and excite you, and leave you much more knowledgeable about what's happening on the Internet.
on 3 July 2011
Maybe it is because I have read a number of books with similar ideas already, but I have not found this book groundbreaking (it was recommended to me as one). Though, I believe for somebody who wants to get acquainted with "open" business models it should be interesting.
While Jarvis manages to put his ideas in nice structured manner the book is way too visionary and has less business in it for my taste. I would also appreciate the book to be more concise, you get the ideas by the middle of the book and then it is just lengthy examples of application (real and visionary/imaginary) of the model to different businesses.
It's definitely worth reading, do not expect miracles though, there are more inspiring books on this.
on 23 September 2014
A brilliant and insightful book. Not only does Jarvis take a fresh approach to understanding how google operate and are successful, he does it in a way that is practical and makes you think about how such 'google think' can be applied to any company and industry. The second half of the book proves the case further by evidencing how the same approaches might be applied to different industries which again catalyses your thinking about how to transform your market. Fantastic.
on 19 November 2010
There are several great ideas in this book, alas hidden among an overly verbous and repetitive writing style. It it is also a bit tiresome when every other sentence contains starts with 'imagine if...' and usually ends with '...thats what Google would do'. About halfway through the book I felt like it was just getting ranty.
Most of these books are saying the same thing anyway: wikinomics, tipping point, long tail. I think this doesn't add much to those.
on 27 December 2012
Although I started reading WWGD for a university course, I found the book very interesting and am constantly recommending it to others. The book is made up of lots of interesting anecdotes and although it can become a bit repetitive, the advice is good and should be listened to by businesses. Definitely worth a read for those interested in the new breed of companies such as Google and Facebook.