[Book Review] How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works is hands down my favorite read of the summer so far. Written by Jonathan Rosenberg and Eric Schmidt, two top executives at Google for many years, this is probably the most accurate book about what is really happening in their “Californian campus”.


After reading about Facebook (Lean In), Intel, Microsoft, and Apple (Strategy Rules), it was time for me to tackle the impressive company that is Google. Google is the promised land of students dreaming of making it big in the world of software. How Google Works was written by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, with the help of Alan Eagle and foreworded by the famous co-founder Larry Page. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know the two authors’ names, but now, I am in full awe of how they contributed to the successful company that is Google. Schmidt was the ex-CEO and current Google Exectutive Chairman. Rosenberg is the former SVP of Products and current advisor to Larry Page.

The book was seperated in eight sections. The first one is an introduction to the way Google works. From it, we learn the approach of the executives to directly interact with the engineers, the importance to keep an eye on their rivals (such as Microsoft and Apple), the importance of speed and innovation, and the desire to always look out for new ideas. The section two focus on the culture: the structure of the company and the well-known priviledges the employees have access to. The next sections are: strategy, talent, decisions, communications, innovation and finally, the conclusion. In this post, I will talk about the book in general, their innovative approach as well as their hiring criteria (in optimal cases).

In general:

As a long time user of Google, I never noticed just how amazing each of their updates were. I always appreciated how each year, the tool became more efficient and user friendly. Hence, I used more and more of their applications. But I never really thought too much about how my search query changed, how suddenly the say query just completed itself, how the recommendations on Youtube became better, how simple Gmail became, how Google Earth helped me do some of my more complex high school projects, etc. But in this book, the authors are going through these innovations one by one and explain how they became to be. These ideas all came from the employees of Google whom had the motivation to go through the process all by themselves. This is what makes Google amazing. That the company, the exectutives AND the employees care about creating a better product before even thinking about profits is what makes Google the venerated company it is. The book also talked about their transparency policy inside the company (how the stats shown to the board are then released for the whole company to see) and outside (it had to leave the Chinese market because of a feud with the Government’s policies). These are all just a few examples of what was covered in the book. Throughout these chapters, I felt extremly priviledges to have access to these inside thoughts.


Smart Creatives

Smart Creatives was a term referred many times in the book. Except Googlers, it is another way of calling the exceptionally talented people who work for Google. Smart Creatives are not defined by specific tasks and have access to the company’s information.  They are not risk averse and understand that even in front of failure, they can stand back up. They understand the values of communicating their ideas and don’t mind disagreeing (even with the higher up!).

More definition of the smart creative:

  • Expert in doing
  • Design concepts AND builts prototypes
  • Analytically smart
  • Innovation
  • Hard working
  • Let data decide, but not take over
  • Business Smart
  • Competitive Smart
  • Knows the product well
  • Obsessive in her interests
  • Testng for her focus group
  • Curious and creative
  • Risky
  • Self-Directive
  • Communicate well
  • Open

Of course, this is a fine, but theoretical definition of Google’s employees. When recapping about this huge list, the authors themselves understnad that most smart creatives only have a few of these. Instead, their recruiting process will focus on the fundamentals:

… they all must possess business savy, technical knowledge, creative energy, and a hands-on approach to getting things done.

For Google to stay at the top of its field, it needs people who are not afraid of trying and failing, who can work at fast paced to create a product that works. He/She hence needss to have technical knowledge and hands-on experience. The company is ready to offer all necessary accomadations for these precious talents, as long as they keep creating amazing content.


About employee description in general, the book offered the following list:

  • Passionate
  • Ready to learn
  • Smart
  • Who can add value to the product AND culture
  • Good character
  • Enthusiastic, self-motivated and passionate
  • Likes team work (and not work alone)
  • Unique interests and talent
  • Ready to grow with the team
  • Insight that can’t be taught
  • Understand technology
  • Have an opinion


For innovation to work well, the CEO needs to work like a CIO as he needs to understand the ressources available well and what is going on in the company. He needs to be a leader that can captivates others because actions are motivated by .. a good leader.

Google is a place where many ideas comes and sadly go… To pursue an idea at Google, the idea must respect three criteria:

  • Address a big challenge or opportunity (affects a large audience)
  • A solution radically different from what is on the market now
  • Feasible in the not-so-distant future

Furthermore, Google has a 70/20/10 politics which means that 70% of ressources are for core business of search and search advertising, 20% are for emerging products with early success and finally, 10% are for completely new things that have a high risk of payoff/failure. This approach allows Google to have a backup if anything wrong happens, but to still stay on edge when it comes to being a technology leader.

In conclusion, this book is one of the most well-written and in-depth ressource about Google’s world. I definitely recommend reading it so you can explore these stories yourself and get into the head of the past CEO of Google (a great man with amazing insights).

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