VIEW, Calif. — Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
help run Google, one of the world’s best-known, most
successful — and most controversial — companies.
They’ve just published a new book, "How Google
Works," a guide to managing what they call
"smart creatives," the technically proficient,
innovation-savvy workers whom companies in every
industry are trying to recruit and retain.
is best known for its ubiquitous and highly profitable
search engine, but the company’s interests include
operating systems (Android for smartphones, Chrome for
computers); productivity applications (Gmail, Google
Docs); cutting-edge products (Google Glass); and applied
research (smart contact lenses, driverless cars). For
many smart creatives, getting hired by Google is
considered a badge of honor.
company, however, finds itself constantly in the midst
of controversy involving regulators and politicians
concerned about data privacy, and censors in places like
China, where open data and political stability don’t
now 59 and a tech industry veteran, was brought in as
"adult supervision" in 2001 to help the young
company’s then-college-age founders, Larry Page and
Sergey Brin. In 2011, Page took the CEO job, while
Schmidt remains executive chairman. Rosenberg, 53, a
Google executive since 2002, currently serves as advisor
recently sat down with the Los Angeles Times at Google
headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to talk about the
book. Rosenberg joined on speaker phone. Below is a
transcript, edited for length.
Why does the world need another management book?
Well, it’s my first management book.
Traditional management books don’t address the fact
that the balance of power has shifted from companies to
consumers. That’s made building superior products the
paramount issue for companies today. So the key thing
that they need to figure out is how to attract what we
in the book call the new breed of employee, the
"smart creative." Those are the people who
have mastered the tools of the current age to build
superior products. We don’t think anyone has told that
What can any company — not just a young tech company
— learn from Google? And what’s a ‘bobble-head yes’?
In the book we talk about how lots of people have
experience in business meetings where the (boss) runs
the meeting, nobody ever actually says anything
interesting, there’s no new data presented, everyone
just says yes and then they leave and do whatever they
want. We call that the ‘bobble-head yes.’
a management perspective you’ve got to have the data,
you have to have a conversation, you have to have a
debate, you have to hear all different points of view,
and you have to have buy-in.
The biggest thing that almost any company needs to do
(to attract smart creatives) is maintain complete
transparency about the sharing of information. Today it’s
very easy to get information to employees through email,
through their intranet, but most companies still
maintain that hierarchical 20th century structure where
limited amounts of information flow down.
any company can implement our approach by starting
meetings with data, really arguing internally about the
believe in five-year plans. That seems a long time in
the technology industry.
Usually things change over a five-year period and you
have to be ready to address those with some new business
or business insight. But you’re better off operating
with the headlights on and the eyeglasses on or whatever
metaphor as to what your future is really going to look
like. If you can’t answer it, you’re not doing your
job as a leader.
businesses don’t seem to have a credible long-term
five-year plan. They accept the current situation and
expect it will be true for the next decade.
How does Silicon Valley’s tech culture differ from LA’s?
They’re very similar. There are much larger
differences outside of America, and some differences
between East Coast and West Coast and Midwest.
my experience dealing with the tech people in LA is that
people in Hollywood that I have dealt with are all on
board with the fact that the primary viewership is
moving to Internet-based solutions. There are plenty of
issues of monetization and rights and so forth, but
there are no Internet digital deniers. Whoever they were
they’re no longer in power. People understand the
scale of the Internet now, in a way they didn’t 10
look at the studio model, the structure by which the
creative process works in Hollywood, it’s highly
efficient, in the sense that it’s very Darwinian. You
have strong entrepreneurs who are the directors and
producers — they’re trying to put a deal together,
they’re trying to generate traffic. Notice it’s not
being done top down, it’s being done sideways or
bottom up. There are many similarities between that
model and the model we talk about in our book.
Your company is facing increasing government scrutiny
and regulation. How do managers deal with that?
The main thing I suggest is that people simply build
better products that consumers are so excited about.
Then consumers will help drive an appropriate political
and legislative discussion that will allow us to fix
regulations where regulations are problematic.
positive example is Uber. They’ve leveraged many of
the specific trends we talked about in our book —
information connecting people with providers in a very
clever and seamless way with a deep technical insight
— yet they’re running headlong into requests for
Uber is the easiest one to understand because everyone
understands what Uber is. Imagine Uber said, ‘Oh, we
don’t want to have any lawsuits, so we have to always
be integrated with everybody else’ (such as the taxi
industry) and it would have followed a less innovative
path. And that ultimately would have produced a less
beneficial product to the Uber customers. I should say
Google is an investor in Uber, for full disclosure.
The way to deal with the regulation is for people to
tell their government that they want these better
products and services.
We’re always on the winning side when we’re on the
user side. … It works in most countries. There are
some countries which you can essentially think of as
non-democracies, where they’re just not organized
around citizens, they’re organized around other
things, and there the issues are much harder.
I say to people internally is don’t censor your own
innovation, let me do it. If you build a fantastic
product we’ll figure out if it’s going to work in
some legislative or regulatory world that’s unfamiliar
to Americans. In other words, build a great product and
if we have to hobble it let (top management) choose to
do that, separate from your brilliant invention.
What do the media get wrong about Google?
The level of importance of the unique perks. It’s easy
to take pictures of people walking around with their
dogs, it’s easy to take pictures of the food in the
cafeteria, and it’s easy to talk about the massages
and the other benefits, but fundamentally, that’s not
what attracts people to the company.
attracts people is the ability to work with other
brilliant people and to work on really, really big
problems. And the media tend to be suspicious of some of
the biggest moonshots that we’re interested in taking:
the smart contact lens, the cars, the fiber effort, the
(data-delivery) balloons. Those are the kind of things I
think are the most exciting and empowering to bring
great employees and not the more obvious surface-level
For the kind of people we’re talking about, they have
an idea that Google provides the resources and the scale
for them to achieve it. If they had the money
themselves, they would just do it themselves.
many things of consequence are hard, they take a lot of
time, they take a lot of resources and very smart
people, and Google has turned out to be a place where
such people gather.