Companies have mission statements…they used to be widely mocked as marketing nonsense but they have become pervasive. For as long as I can remember Google’s has been to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” their unofficial mission statement has always been “don’t be evil.” Many would argue that they have done a pretty good job of delivering against their official version and at least recently a much less great job of delivering against their informal one. In any event Google has changed as it has grown and it now does a great deal more than just organize the world’s data…and that’s apparently leading to some concerns in the Google-Plex. In a recent interview King Larry himself admitted that the company had outgrown its mission statement and was pondering what to do about that. He didn’t have any immediate suggestion as it’s clearly a tough question.
At the heart of the issue is the question “What does Google do?” The short answer is “lots” and probably “too much”. Having organized the worlds data then found ways to turn it into the most powerful new advertising vehicle since the invention of the TV it has amassed a war chest so large that it has the resources to try almost anything…and they have. They are in email, data infrastructure, social media and even medicine to name but a few areas. They power a significant majority of the world’s mobile devices with Android and have many projects with lofty (some argue crazy goals) like delivering Wi-Fi to the third world by high altitude balloon which cost billions with no measurable revenue attached as yet.
Despite the extraordinary range of projects they are involved with the vast majority of their revenue comes from their dominance in search. Love them or hate them the majority of online users in the western world navigate the web through their products. It’s a great place to be in…but it’s not without problems which I noted in this blog a week or so back. So it’s hardly surprising that the powers that be are struggling with a message which covers all the pies they currently have fingers in. Coming up with a mission that covers autism research, self driving cars and online advertising is a tall perhaps impossible order.