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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hoping Larry Page says "Damn the torpedoes"

Wow, Ben Horowitz really nails it with his Peacetime CEO/Wartime CEO post.  I think the first item in his litany about halfway down is amazingly salient:

Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.
and also
Peacetime CEO aims to expand the market. Wartime CEO aims to win the market. 
Google has been at a distinct disadvantage in that everything they do is under the microscope.  Google has deep pockets and people love to sue them when they mess up.  Externally, they can never admit who   a certain feature might be competing with or outflanking with things like competitive feature matrices in marketing material.  Users have to figure that out for themselves.

While at Google, I worked on features in my products were never launched because lawyers were concerned about potential legal actions of their direct competitors, and there were times I was asked to reword or redact statements in interviews for fear of seeming too competitive.  Meanwhile we had to watch as smaller competitors and launched the exact same features and make the exact same statements with impunity.  The result is that instead of providing features the users want, features got watered down.  It's the nature of the beast but it was truly a shame because the users lost, and Google lost users.

At the startups I have been involved with, the ones that have been the most successful (including FeedBurner) were the ones where the wartime strategy (redundant because most startups are always in wartime) was "we are going to crush competitor X and we are going to outflank competitor Y."   There's no better way to pull a team together and motivate them than when you have a solid opponent to rally around and beat.

A reason I'm bullish on Larry Page being in command at Google is I think he will take more of a "damn the torpedoes" approach to some of these risks and actually compete publicly.   He needs to be a wartime general and not a peacetime diplomat.  At least that's what I want as a Google user.
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