The Management Lesson Of Larry Page
In an interview with Steven Levy for WIRED, Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and CEO, details his insatiable ambition.
He explains that he asks his team to work on products that are 10 times better than the competition. The majority of companies seek to improve the existing offering by 10% instead of 1000%, which means that they produce substantially the same innovation as their competitors. These companies don’t experience spectacular failures but they don’t take a lead over their peers.
Larry Page is inspiring when he talks about corporate ambition: “It’s hard to find actual examples of really amazing things that happened solely due to competition. How exciting is it to come to work if the best you can do is trounce some other company that does roughly the same thing? That’s why most companies decay slowly over time. They tend to do approximately what they did before, with a few minor changes. It’s natural for people to want to work on things that they know aren’t going to fail. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change. So a big part of my job is to get people focused on things that are not just incremental.”
That’s why Larry Page focuses on product revolutions which challenge the limit of what’s possible, such as the driverless car and augmented reality goggles being developed by Google X teams. As Steven Levy explains in the WIRED article, Larry Page has “a healthy disregard for the impossible” – a beautiful phrase.
I have sometimes criticized Google on Superception (read here and here for instance) but the philosophy professed by Larry Page couldn’t be more exciting. It reminds me of the quote from my hero, Robert F. Kennedy, which I highlighted at the beginning of my book: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”