How’s everyone doing? Great. Good. So just a quick wordon the food thing. So it’s going to seem like alot, but where it comes from is Sergey Brin. One of our founders oncesaid nobody should ever be more than 200feet away from food. And so you’ll see it’s a bigpart of how we think and feel. It’s 100 feet. Was it 100 feet? I’ve been corrected. 100 feet. Even I learn thingsat these events. For those of you who are from Google, I just want to say I’m. You’ve never seen me inanything other than a t-shirt but this is what I look likewhen I dress like a grown-up. So welcome to all of you. http://technology
I couldn’t be more delighted to welcome you to Google to this first event of our kind. The list of people, as you’veno doubt noticed this morning in bumping into oneanother, is just amazing. And I’m incredibly grateful that all of you took the time to travel, to getout here, and to spend so much of your time with us and takethis risk and see what happens. Every one of youis here because we believe you will add something to this conversation we’re having. https://worldgraphics20.com/2020/11/02/building-a-franchise-with-restaurant-technology-in-2020/
We have PulitzerPrize winning writers. We have pioneers ineverything from crowd sourcing and crowd funding tohow to make the best coffee on the planet in asustainable thoughtful way. We have the world’s expertson things like happiness, how to make teams actually workwell, topics like inclusion. You represent,together, 63 companies and almost 3 million employees. So what you do interms of management and how you thinkabout work and people makes a tremendousdifference in the world. We have Bank of America,Teach For America, and we even have Virgin America.
Something for everybody. And then we’ve got somefolks for Google, too. We will probably editthis before we put it on the website. So why are we here? We had this epiphanya while back that you actually spendmore time working then you do doing anythingelse in life. I mean, if you add up thehours, particularly now we all got devices and we’reconnected all the time, you spend more time working than you do sleeping.
You spend more timeworking than you do on your favorite hobbiesand favorite activities. And the crazy thingis you spend more time working than you do with thepeople most important to you in the world– your spouses,your family, your parents, your best friends. You spend more time withthese people you work with. And it’s kind of crazy. It’s crazy that for mostpeople in the world, work is not better than it is. And there’s this greatmovie “Office Space,” which everyone’s seen.
There’s this beautiful,beautiful clip where Peter Gibbons, the maincharacter, is in group therapy to kind of figure out what’sgoing on with his work that I just want to sharebecause I think it beautifully encapsulates how somany people feel. So if you can play the video. So I was sittingin my cubicle today and I realized eversince I started working, every single day in my lifehas been worse than the day before it. So that means that everysingle day that you see me, that’s on the worstday of my life.
What about today? Is today the worstday of your life? -Yeah. -Wow, that’s messed up. That is messed up. And that’s like the worstpsychologist in the world. Like that is the least possiblehelpful thing you could do. But I think a lot ofpeople feel that way. You don’t have to readtoo much of the newspaper to see stories about people who don’t earn a living wage, about companies that have full-time employees but that don’toffer health care, about employees who arelocked in their warehouses by their employers andnot allowed to leave.
And there’s oppressiveheat, oppressive conditions happening even in a placeas presumably sophisticated as the United States. And you all rememberyears ago about a company where there were suicidesbecause of the work conditions. And people werekilling themselves by jumping off buildings. And the solution thecompany implemented was not, well, we should docounseling, maybe we should look at ourworking conditions. They installed suicidenets off the second floor to catch the peopleas they jumped.
And as I’ve read thepress and thought about it and thought of what so many ofyou have done at your companies and what we’ve tried to do here,it all kind of came to a head when I got a callfrom a reporter from CNN International. And she asked me– this was afew years ago– and she said, you know, Google isthis great workplace. And it sounds so amazing andsurely that must be destiny.
I mean, surely you have figured something out and every companywill eventually treat workers the way you do. And I started tosay, well, yeah. You know, that’s what I believe. But then I realized that Iwas wrong and she was wrong. Because ultimately, youcould make a ton of money by treating people miserably. And this goes back tothe 1920s and tailors and things like this. But you can treatpeople really badly, and there’s enough peoplewho are desperate for work that you can just grind throughthem and cycle through them and have a miserable experience.
And when they’re no longerproductive, you fire them. You lay them off, you whatever. And sometimes you have tomake tough business decisions. But the way you treatpeople is a choice. And you can make atremendous amount of money by treating people miserably. And I believe, andwe at Google believe, you can also actuallyrun a great business by treating peopleexceptionally well. I like to talk about low freedomand high freedom environments. And low freedomenvironments are ones where you’re told what to do.
You have very little discretion. You don’t enjoy. You don’t appreciate it. And work sucks. And you go to work every daybecause you need to make rent. Or you need to pay foryour kids to go to school. Or you need to putfood on the table. But it’s a means to an end. And I believe– we believe– itcould be something a lot more. And that over time, the mosttalented people on the planet will actually gravitate towardshigh freedom environments, like many of your companies. And over time, thatwill be an advantage.
how google technology is changing the nature of human in 2020
But in the meantime,you can get rich treating people pretty badly. So that’s my startingworldview and how we think about it at Google. And it’s a choiceyou get to make. So on the Google side,what do we do about it? And if you’ll indulge me,I’ll share a little bit about our approachbefore we open it up for the rest of the day. So Google offices. And I think we’ll havetours later in the day for anybody wantsto explore and see what Googlers look like in situ.
But you know,they’re pretty nice. And most people look at Googleand they’ll say, well you know, you guys are successful on thepeople side for two reasons. One is, you givepeople free food. You have bean bags. You have lava lamps. You have nice furniture. You have these beautifulwell-lit spaces. You do all thisstuff for people. And that’s whyyour company works. That’s the draw. And the other thingpeople will often say is they will say, well, ofcourse Google can do it.
You guys have huge margins. You guys make a fortune. You print money. Of course, you can afford todo all these things for people. And both of those argumentsmiss the point and are wrong. So I want to go back towhere Google started. This one’s a littlegrainy because there wasn’t a lot of digitalphotography in 1999. So this is a photo of– cananyone name the company? It’s kind of a gimme. Google Yes. Thank you.
I’m atrained observer. Very good. Very nice. So this was our office in 1999. This actually, this wasthe HR department in 1999. You can see it’s not opulent–sawhorses, high panels, all kinds of things. But there’s a funnything going on. There’s that yellow balloonfloating in the corner. Because what we started doingfrom the very beginning– and this predates me. I didn’t join until 2006. What Larry and Sergey starteddoing, what was important was to celebrate small things.
So when you joined the company,there’s a balloon on your desk. It says welcome. And we still do thatfor every new employee. And there’s all kinds ofthings to celebrate that moment and welcome them. A balloon cost nothing. But it’s somethingwe did when we had zero revenue, nomoney, working conditions that look like any othercompany on the planet. And we did it becausewe think there’s a different way youshould be treating people.
Because what it fundamentally comes down to is if you want to getthe best out of people, and if you want todo the right thing, you have to start from thequestion of, are people good? Or are people evil? Because if you believepeople are good, you treat them a certain way. You give them freedom. You share information with them. You help them make decisionsabout how the company goes. Because they’re good people.
They’ll do the right thing. If you don’t believe they’regood, you control them. You manage them super tightly. You watch over themand spy on them and try to find outwhat’s happening. And you design your companywith the expectation that your employees willtry to cheat and steal and do bad things for theirown personal enrichment. Which is what a lot ofcompanies end up doing.
So how does this stuff work? Well, there’s one otherslide I want to show you. This is something calleda Polaroid picture. We didn’t crop it. This is actually– someof you will remember this. That’s Omid Kordestani. Omid was our firsthead of sales. He was employee number 10 or 11. He took the company from zeroin revenue to $20 billion in revenue. And then he steppedout of the job. And now he’s back actuallyhelping us and figuring out how we’re going togo from $50 billion to whatever the numberis, to infinity.
But what’s interestingis, again, very small, the conditions are not amazing. You can see likethis little projector here, sitting ona cardboard box. I think he’s probably standing literally on a couple sandbags because what would happen is,once we started having revenue, we’d have a projection. He’d always beat it. And he got a reputationfor sandbagging.
So he was forced to givetalks standing on a sandbag. But he was doing somethingthat started very early in the company’s days,which is standing up in front of all the employeesand sharing our financial data. And since the beginning,and what it’d eventually evolved into isthis thing called TGIF, where every week, Larryand Sergey, our founders and our CEO, stand up infront of the whole company.
You can ask themanything, literally any question you want. And I’ll talk moreabout that in a second. But again, this costs nothing. It’s a choice we made. And there was a possibilitythat any of these people was going to go toYahoo! or AltaVista or Lycos or Infoseek– rememberall these companies– and say, here’s what Google is doing.
you know what? I know Google’s secrets. If you hire me, I willtell you those secrets. No one did. Because people arefundamentally good. And if you treatthem like that, they will live up toyour expectations. So the core of Google’s successand what we think about people doesn’t have anythingto do with the food.
It doesn’t have anything to dowith– the food really is just to lure people like you into conferences like this. It comes down to three thingsthat really drive our culture. One is a mission that matters. You heard [? Ivetta ?] startoff with our mission already. If you went to any personwho works at this company and said what isGoogle’s mission, they would dutifully recite it. Organize the world’sinformation, et cetera, et cetera.
What’s weird is, we don’ttell anyone the mission. We never talk about internally. It’s not in training materials. It’s not in newhire orientation. But it’s out there inthe world because it was in our IPO letter. Our founders put it out there. And people come to thecompany because they’re attracted to something thatis more meaningful than just selling ads or doing search ordoing YouTube or doing People Operations.
They want to be partof something bigger. Adam Grant, who’s here today,who you’ll hear from later, has done amazing researchabout how giving somebody a connection tosomething meaningful has dramatic impact ontheir actual productivity. And we see the same thing. What we found is amission that matters both attracts the right people–so there’s a selection effect– and it keeps themdriven and motivated, particularly on the days whenyou’re frustrated and unhappy, because you feel connectedto something bigger. The second thingis transparency. So I touched on TGIF.
So you can ask thefounders anything. And it ranges from why is mychair so uncomfortable– which people have asked– to wasGoogle’s decision in regards to China good or was it evil? And when we decidedto stop hosting search in China because of ourviews on censorship, was that the right thingto do or the wrong thing? And what’s amazing isreasonable people can disagree. There’s different perspectives on it.
how google technology is changing the nature of human in 2020
You could argue greater goodfor the greatest number, or you could argue that, well,we want to be absolute purists. And we had a debate anddiscussion and conversation. Every quarter, Eric Schmidt,who was our CEO for a decade, is now our executive chairman,gets up on stage and shares the board ofdirectors’ presentation with the entire company. All the detailabout what’s going on in the company, ourmost sensitive information shared with the board only,he shares it with everybody because if you believepeople are good, you will, of course, expectthem to respect confidentiality.
And you’retransparent with them. And then we giveemployees voice. This is the thirdvery, very key thing. It’s critical at Googlethat not just you let people know what’sgoing on, but if you then don’t let them impactwhat’s happening, they’ll realizeit’s just a sham. So, for example,in my own world, we redesigned how we pay people. We changed all ourbonus curves and who gets big bonuses and small.
The way we did it was we tookan anonymized set of data and we gave it to abunch of employees and said, why don’tyou monkey with this and come up with somethingthat is fair and make sense. And again, that’s madnessin a lot of places, but we felt theyshould be involved in shaping these most criticalthings that affect them.
So the other thingthat’s interesting is so this is how wesort of run the company and think about the cultureand bring people out. We also take adifferent perspective on how we think aboutPeople Operations, what in a lot of places is HR. We generate a lot ofmemes inside the company and this is “Success Kid.” We did not create “Success Kid.” But somebody put this labelon it, “Science-based HR!” And it came outwhen we rolled out this piece of work called Project Oxygen, which talked about what makes people successful managers at Google.
And there wasn’t a lot ofrocket science to the findings. Have regular one on ones. Be predictable. Be a good coach. Give clear guidance. Not mind-blowing stuff. But what was transformativewas we did the research and analysis here on Googlers,on the very specific context of how things work here. And we did it using robust,academic-quality analytics coming out of our People Innovation Lab. And the effect was, Googlers who are engineers said this passes my test. It’s not just youmaking stuff up.
You have proven thisworks at Google. And then every six months,we survey people– managers, direct reports do asurvey on their managers, provide anonymous feedback. And we get sort ofmanager quality rating every six months. As a result ofthis work, managers have gotten better everysix months at Google for the last 3and 1/2 years just by getting theinformation out there and rooting it in what we do.
So we’ve done other things. We use nudge emails. There’s some folks here from the UK Nudge Unit. Inspired by that, we usenudge emails to get people to contribute moreto their 401(k)s. It cost us $28 million,which on the one hand, that’s a lot of money. But on the other hand,when you compound that out, it’s $200 million or more inretirement savings for Googlers as a result of investingwhen you’re 30 or 35 or 40 versus not investing at all andcontinuing it over your career.
Huge, huge return on investment and great for the people andthe right thing to do. So we try to apply data tojust about everything we do to make surewe know it’s true. Because too much of our fieldis, well, here’s what I think, here’s what I’ve done before,here’s what’s best practice. And the problem withthat is best practice varies a lot based onthe specific context of where you work. And your abilityto communicate it to people in your organization, have them believe it is dependent heavily on whether theanalysis, the research really is aboutyour organization.
And I know we’renot alone in this. I was lucky enough to bumpinto Jenn Mann earlier but I’d wanted tocall out earlier. She runs HR for SAS. She’s been there 16 years,SAS is an enterprise software company in NorthCarolina, right? I always get theCarolinas mixed up. Sorry. But North Carolina. And SAS was the modelfor a lot of what we did. I mean, if youlook them up, they have this beautifulbucolic campus. They provide great wellnessprograms for their employees.
They pay them well. When the economytook a downturn, their founder wrote abouthow he went to employees and said times are tough. What should we do? And people voluntarily took paycuts rather than have layoffs. And it’s mind-blowing. It’s because people are good andwill do the right thing if you make them part of howyou manage a company. And so part of today isdrawing inspiration for us, from all of you.
But another part is at Google,we have about 50,000 people. And as I mentioned,all of us together employ about 3 million people. But there’s 4.2 billionpeople working on the planet. And the question tokind of kick off the day would be, how differentwould the world be if every singleone of those people had meaning in their workand felt like they were doing something that mattered rather than just trying to make ends meet?
how google technology is changing the nature of human in 2020
I think all these organizations that are here, the academics we have, thethought leaders we have, the economists we have,I think we have a chance to get the word out and havepeople think about this stuff. Because we spend so much time on work that all of us individually in ourlives, it’s kind of the most important thing. Like if you can change that,if you can improve that, the world will bea different place. And I think in some ways, it’ssolvable for the first time in human history.
If you look at the spread of mobile technology, you’re able tocommunicate a lot more. And there’s all kindsof interesting anecdotes about river fishermenin Indonesia being able to use cell phonesto check what fish prices are up and down the river beforethey come back into port and earning anaverage of 30% more than they did before the advent of phones.
It is mind-blowing. And because we cancommunicate all this, the examples that all ofyou set in your research and in your practiceand in your discussions and as public figures,has an opportunity to have adisproportionate impact. I think what folksoutside our organizations don’t appreciate is, it’snot just one or two companies doing this. We’ll hear fromWegmans later today. Jack DePeters is here.
Wegmans was the best comingto work for in America before Google was. Not that it’s acompetition, but what I mean is this is a companythat’s very different. And they figured it out in acompletely different industry. And I can’t wait tointerview him and hear what he has to say. And it’s not fair that Googlegets press because journalists like writing aboutthe tech industry and people think watchesare cool and so on.
So, there’s a huge opportunityto say more and do more. And that’s whywe’re here today– to hear from some of thebest thinkers in the world, to compare notes, andperhaps, to quietly conspire to make work better everywhere. So thank you all for coming andfor being part of this today. Now what I’d liketo do now– we’re going to shift today’s schedule. There’s a coupleof small changes. Everyone’s who supposedto be here is still here.
But we’re shuffling thingsaround a little bit. So I’d like towelcome Marina Gorbis to the stage in just a moment. Marina leads theInstitute for the Future, which is a thinktank in the area. And she’s one of the mostthoughtful people about how work happens today, howit’s happened in the past, and how it is likely to happen10 and 20 and 30 and 50 and 100 years from now. She’s charming and thoughtful and brilliant. And I can’t wait to hear what you have to say, Marina. Thank you so much for joining us.