Former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs was known for his focused vision.
During his tenure at Apple, Jobs focused on doing one thing incredibly well — making computers simple enough for everyday people to enjoy using, regardless of whether or not you knew the first thing about how they worked.
Google is much different. In recent years more than ever before, the company has been dabbling in all sorts of fields that stretch way beyond the initial search engine that brought it to fame.
From self-driving cars to wearable technology and balloons that can beam the internet, Google seems to be going for the “do a little bit of everything” strategy.
Jobs wasn’t shy about criticising Google for this type of philosophy, Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page said in a recent interview with Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures.
I would always have this debate actually with Steve Jobs. He would be like, ‘you guys are doing too much stuff,’ and I’d be like yeah that’s true. He was right in some sense.
Page also explained part of Google’s reasoning behind this mindset to Khosla during the Q&A:
I always thought it was kind of stupid if you have this big company and you can only do like five things. And I also think it’s not very good for the employees, because then you have like 30,000 employees and they’re all doing the same thing, which isn’t very exciting for them.
Ideally, a company would scale the number of things that it does along with the number of employees it has, Page said.
This strategy also helps the company run more efficiently, according to Page. Trying to own a certain space and “know exactly how to do something that’s very similar to what we already do” can create a management burden, Page said. Doing something “less related,” according to Page, can enable a company to “handle more things.”
Google co-founder and head of Google’s X lab Sergey Brin also weighed in, saying that Google X is driven by this idea of straying away from what the company is already good at.
When speaking to Khosa, Brin explained that the team at X thinks in “atoms not bits.” In other words, the team thinks in terms of real-world matter and objects rather than computer language.
Brin explained that projects like Google’s self-driving car and contact lenses that can test its wearer’s glucose levels are “all very physical” and shift away from things that are “closer to Google’s core.”
This type of strategy is only successful after a company is already well-established, Page said:
For startups, maybe you need to get one thing done well…or else you don’t have permission to do anything else. For big companies I think it’s a little different.
Check out the clip from the full interview below to hear about Google’s strategy.