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Google Toy Factory

Forbes has a disturbing question: who’s running Google after all? If you’re thinking the answer is Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, you might be wrong.

Eric Schmidt, of course, is the chief executive, the guy who cheerfully called himself the “adult supervision” when he signed on. And he puts on a good face for the outside world: “The only way we’ll deal with our growth and scale is with a systematic approach to each and every thing we do,” he declared at Google’s press jamboree in May. The company’s focus, Schmidt assured reporters, is really on search. “We have more people working on search than ever before,” he said.

But as charming as he is, Schmidt runs Google about as much as much as the Dalai Lama runs the world’s spiritual life.

Google hardly has a classic corporate command structure. Instead, Google executives seem to carry themselves with all the authority of an overindulgent parent, constantly worrying about what employees think. Before Google announced that the company would obey the Chinese government by censoring the results of some searches, senior executives knew they’d take heat from human-rights advocates for the decision. They could cope with that. More nerve-wracking, however, confided one senior executive, was what people inside the company would say.

This attitude draws snickers from outsiders. “I’ve heard that they have a lot of cacophony in the development process. I’m not surprised,” deadpanned Microsoft’s Ballmer at a recent Silicon Valley gathering. “It’s important to have lots of flowers–but important to have coherence, too.” |

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