Gary Hamel Wants Google Business

Super-consultant Gary Hamel apparently wants to do some arm-waving work over at Google. The former Enron booster has a deliriously silly and fawning Google editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal.

While he starts by doing some perfunctory bowing in the general direction of “all good things don’t last”, he then spirals out of control, explaining how wondrous Google is, especially its “evolutionary” approach to management.

For example, Hamel praises Google’s “expansive sense of purpose”, which cynics would call Teen Beat scatteredness.  (“Yeah! And then we’ll do this! And then this! And then …. yeah!”) He is also naively fond of Google’s flat structure, which has its charms, but which can also apparently veer toward feeling like a capricious Sergey and Larry Show.

Hamel continues, parroting the usual line about Google engineers having 20% of their time for their favorite personal projects, versus other companies’ “rigidities that perpetuate historical patterns of resource allocation” (yeesh!). Yes, it’s a fine policy, but let’s be historically accurate: Or did all those skunkworks in other companies really did have to do with skunks, not side projects?

Finally, Hamel rains praise on Google’s recruitment process, which he says filters out bozos. Sure, it knocks out those people, but it also eliminates lots of normal candidates who have no interest in being dicked around for six months by IQ size queens at Google.

Yes, Google is a fine company, and has been a wondrous investment. But no company merits all of Hamel’s paeans here, and what Hamel has done, en passant, is make the eventual bear case for Google. This one’s a keeper — for reasons Hamel never intended.


  1. I compared Google to Earl Campbell on my blog yesterday – the bruising Hall of Fame running back whose career was cut short by being gang tackled repeatedly in his career. Google has so many different competitors and governments trying to lasso them – sure it is great to watch them run over the defenses but it may mean a shorter “career”

  2. Hamel has no clue what he is talking about. I regularly do lunch/dinner with many Googlers, people whom I’ve known for a decade or more. The most apt way to describe Google is that it is one giant grad-school research group. Everything else is hyperbole. It is a company driven by engineers, not jargon-speak experts like Hamel.
    What people fail to realize is that most of the ideas Google is implementing now have been around for years, since the mid and late 1990s. Anyone familiar with technology and its pace would recognize this. Innovation always happens gradually and always in the backroom.
    As long as the money keeps rolling in, the party will last. The world is definitely is a better place because of Google’s technology.
    Google is not 42.

  3. Your comment about Google and its hyperactive approach to corporate strategy reminded me of a vaguely non-PC joke I just heard:
    Q: How many kids with ADD does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: Hey — let’s go ride bikes!

  4. whether google finds effective ways to implement Gary’s suggested pattern or not, the pattern is a valid alternative to common corporate organizational practices. expanded sense of purpose, horizontal org, individually determined projects, and selection of partners — are all developing at one rate or another at every live corporation. each corp can attempt to push or retard this direction – but finding effective ways to implement these trends does help innovate