Who will be the new face of openness at Google?

Last week, Google Senior Vice President of Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg resigned after almost 10 years at the firm. While the comings and goings of tech industry executives aren’t typically that interesting to me, I found this news fascinating for a couple of reasons.

First, Rosenberg says that one of the things he plans to do is write a book with ex-Google CEO (and current Executive Chairman) Eric Schmidt. The subject? According to an article in the Mercury News, they’ll be writing about “the values, rules and creation of Google’s management culture.”

Now that is a book I’d like to read. Google is in many ways an ideal case study of the open source way as applied to management practices, and, while many have written books about Google already (notably this one by Bernard Girard and this brand new one by Steven Levy), I’d love to see Schmidt and Rosenberg’s take (and I hope we can corral one of them for a webcast on opensource.com when the book comes out).

I’m especially interested in their view of how the existing Google culture changed (or didn’t change) during their tenure. Especially since it has been reported that Rosenberg’s top-down management style didn’t mesh well at first with the existing engineering-led culture.

But what I find to be the even more interesting question in the short term is, with Rosenberg leaving, who will be the new face of openness at Google?

You may remember reading something many have called Google’s Openness Manifesto, which is, in my view, one of the most compelling corporate statements about openness I’ve encountered. The author? Jonathan Rosenberg.

From the openness manifesto:

In an open system, a competitive advantage doesn’t derive from locking in customers, but rather from understanding the fast-moving system better than anyone else and using that knowledge to generate better, more innovative products. The successful company in an open system is both a fast innovator and a thought leader; the brand value of thought leadership attracts customers and then fast innovation keeps them…

Open systems have the potential to spawn industries. They harness the intellect of the general population and spur businesses to compete, innovate, and win based on the merits of their products and not just the brilliance of their business tactics.

When I first read this post, I thought it captured—even beyond Google—a worldview I largely share.

Some found it bold. Others were quick to point out places where Google didn’t live up to the aspiration of the post.

But I totally dug it. I’ve remembered it ever since, and still go back to it often.

Yet, when I look at the About Google section of google.com, I don’t see this open point of view expressed “officially” anywhere near as clearly as how Rosenberg explained it.  In fact, the concept of openness is buried if not completely absent from the official corporate story.

In the openness manifesto, Rosenberg states about Google: “We run the company and make our product decisions based on these principles.”

Is this just a case of the Google website content needing a refresh? Maybe.

But if one of the core, fundamental aspects of Google’s management and culture is openness, the best expression of this openness came from someone who is stepping down from the organization, and openness has not yet been institutionalized in the official Google story, what happens next?

Who emerges as the face of openness at Google now? Is it Larry or Sergey? Perhaps Marissa Mayer or one of these other top folks is the one who cares the most. Or maybe it is already so deeply ingrained in the culture and organizational structure that there doesn’t need to be one leader and it is obvious to everyone but folks like me on the outside.

Do you know of places whether other leaders within Google have publicly expressed a cogent view of Google’s openness philosophy? Please share them below along with and any additional thoughts or opinions.

I’d love to hear what you think.

[This article originally appeared on opensource.com]

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.


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