Last weekend I read the Planet Google,; One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything. I want to layout some lessons to be learned from the ambitions and results Google made. The first one is Open vs Closed. Google needs every piece of information to be free and open to let the Google spider index it. This is needed to make all information on earth searchable. This ambition is a big challege that will take Google another 290 years to accomplish.
From a business perspective it is a challenge as well to open up every piece information within the company and make it searchable. The access to information can provide your organization a lot of insight in the way customers are being serviced, processes work and the performance of business units or teams. This information is both structured and unstructured. If done in a good way this can prove a competitive advantage for an organization.
One other lesson is to disobey your superiors from time to time. During the development of Gmail the AdSense program was discovered after a programmer showed that it was possible to read a e-mail message and show some ads on that page. This discovery generates more revenue than Gmail will ever do. The lesson here is to follow your instincts and view a problem and a solution from different standpoints. Thinking out of the box and linking stuff together will generate a lot more profit than sticking to the default path.
A challenge Google and every company has to work on is that not everything can be done by an algorithm as good as a human can do (yet). The only problem is the amount of data. Google outsmarted Yahoo with the algorithm versus the human input. The problem with some tasks is that humans can apply knowledge and do things way faster and better than a computer. Flickr solves this problem, they let humans add tags to photo’s. Even though they get enormous amounts of photo’s everyday they manage to engage enormous amouts of people as well to do the tagging for them. Indexing is done by hand and supplies a great way to navigate through all photo’s on flickr.