How Google's Engineering Mindset Killed Its Philanthropic Efforts


Photo: Co.Design via, the search company’s philanthropic arm, was supposed to reinvent philantrhopy. It hasn’t.Now most of what does is hand out grants and build nice but not game changing tools out of Google‘s existing products.

The New York Times has a long article looking into the reasons why.

The main culprit? Google’s engineering culture.

An engineering mindset is great at tackling clearly defined problems with easily measurable outcomes. Philanthropy, of course, is the opposite: the problems are huge and hard to define, and the outcomes are notoriously near-impossible to measure. And you’re dealing with human behaviour, which Google keeps struggling to understand, as evidenced by its failure at building good social products.

The other culprit is people issues. Dr. Larry Brilliant, whom Google’s founders picked to head up, everyone seems to agree is very, well, brilliant, but not much of a manager. And it turns out that’s main champion at Google’s top executive level was Sheryl Sandberg, who left to become number 2 at Facebook.

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