The world imagines the Google workplace as an environment as light and playful as the company's colourful logo. From the outside, Google is that "Don't be evil" company, run by geeks in T-shirts and jeans, sitting on beanbag chairs. The world imagines the leaders of Google to be nerdy techno-idealists -- people who want to use the company's money and power to build self-driving cars, put a computer on every face, and launch Wi-Fi blimps over Africa.
[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4b1d4e9b0000000000e15726/image.jpg" alt="Google cofounder Sergey Brin and Larry Page, circa 2000" link="lightbox" size="xlarge" align="center" nocrop="true" clear="true" caption="The way the world imagines Google"] This vision of Google is accurate. But it's also incomplete. Past the veneer of primary colours, inside the walls of Google's Mountain View campus, Google is a hotbed of sex and political infighting. And it always has been. A source who spent most of his career at Google put it this way: "Inside Google, it's a 'Game of Thrones.'" "Game of Thrones" is a series of novels and an HBO television show. The plot is wildly intricate, but the main story is about how several families from all over the Kingdom are competing to take over the throne. The show and books are full of violence, sex, and political intrigue. There is no violence at Google. But sex and politics? Oh, yes.
Sex At Google
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Politics At Google
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[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5239ebef69bedd3021f5a200/image.jpg" alt="Carneros inn" link="lightbox" size="xlarge" align="center" nocrop="true" clear="true" source="Carneros Inn" caption="The lobby of the Carneros Inn"] His speech was part admonition and part pep rally. In his signature, raspy, weak voice, Page told the room that Google's ambitions were incredibly high, but that it would never reach its goals -- his goals -- if the people in that room did not stop fighting with each other. Page said that, from now on, Google would have "zero tolerance for fighting." Page admitted that Google, in its younger days, had demanded its leaders be aggressive with each other. But that, Page said, was when Google's problems were "linear" problems. Google had needed to grow the market share of all its products from 0% to competitive to winning. Now, with Google leading the world in most of the product categories it competes in, the company faced what Page called "n-squared" problems. Google, Page said, needed to grow by "10X." It needed to create whole new markets, to solve problems in as yet unimagined ways. To solve "n-squared" problems, Page said, Google executives would have to start getting along with each other better. Finally, Page laid down the law: "If you keep fighting, we'll be very happy to send you to the competition." During the speech, one of the executives who was in the room turned to a friend and whispered: "Did he just say, 'zero tolerance for fighting? I've been here for years. All we do is fight." He was right. As another longtime Google executive put it: "If the princes [are at] war, it's because the king tolerates it." The Kings of Google had been tolerating fighting for a very long time. ═══ Google's co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have always made their most important decisions through heated debates, even as far back as their first days working together in the late 1990s. In Douglas Edwards' book, early Googler David Krane is quoted as saying that Brin and Page "would be downright rude to each other, confidently dismissing ideas as stupid or naive or calling each other bastards." As Google grew, Page and Brin hired and promoted other people who were able to "debate" this way. In meetings with all the new hires, one of the two co-founders would provoke an argument over a business or product decision. Then they would both sit back, and watch and listen as their new lieutenants verbally cut each other down. As soon as any argument started to go circular, Page would call a winner and start a new fight. At the time, the company also lacked a formal management structure. There was "no structure, foundation, or control," says Heather Cairns as quoted in Edwards' book. "Even if someone had a manager, that manager was inexperienced and provided no leadership. People weren't used to authority and wouldn't adhere to it -- it was a completely unmanaged workforce that was bouncing off the walls like a tornado." So, in the place of a formal structure, there grew two hierarchies at Google. Quietly, Google's engineers began deferring to the most talented coders among them. People like Jeff Dean and Urs Hölzle built the bulk of Google's technology, and earned massive fortunes and companywide prestige for doing it. Less quietly, Google's managers judged themselves by who most often walked out of Brin and Page's debate-oriented meetings a winner. Slowly, those who won the most arguments got the biggest management jobs at Google -- and with those jobs, control over huge territories such as search, YouTube, mobile, or social. Google's argumentative meetings continue to this day. Page holds one every Monday morning with his direct reports. Usually they last all day. This Thunderdome-style ordering of the company has had three effects. The first, and most important, is that since Page took over Google again in 2011, the company has performed remarkably well. In 2010, with the company's stock in the tank, employees were panicked about their option strike prices. Now Google's stock is once again hitting all-time highs. Two years ago, pre-IPO Facebook was the hottest company in the Valley. Now, everyone in the industry is once again gushing over Google, which has managed to become both a money-making machine and a "moonshot factory." The second impact is that executive arguments often extend beyond strategy review meetings, morphing into turf wars fought through hallway lobbying and email flaming. The third has been the development of personal animosities. It turns out that when two people have to argue with each other all the time in order to get anywhere with their careers, they sometimes stop liking each other. Perhaps the most whispered-about rivalries at Google over the years was the one between search and product executive Marissa Mayer, now the CEO of Yahoo!, and Salar Kamanjar, an early Googler who wrote the company's first business plan and later rose to become CEO of YouTube.
[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5238d204eab8ea9640d28236/image.jpg" alt="Game of Thrones Google Glass" link="lightbox" size="xlarge" align="center" nocrop="true" clear="true" source="Illustration by Mike Nudelman" caption="The Mother of Dragons would do very well at Google"] Mayer was one of Google's toughest debaters. According to sources, she had three key skills: an ability to recall vast amounts of specific data, an ability to talk very fast, and the ability to talk very fast for a very long time. Kamanjar bristled at his inability to get a word in with her during debates, and would complain about it to his own direct reports. But Kamanjar had his own skills -- in particular, an ability to pull Larry Page or Sergey Brin aside, away from Mayer's verbal onslaughts, and convince them his ideas were the best. In fact, it's safe to say that, among those competing in the Google version of "Game of Thrones," Kamanjar is a clear winner. Kamanjar's official title is CEO of YouTube, but he is far more influential than even that big title suggests. Besides a sharp analytical mind and an eye for strategy, Kamanjar's secret weapon has been a very close relationship with Larry Page. What Kamanjar whispers, Page hears. In his book, Edwards describes Kamanjar as "a Porsche packaged as a Dodge Dart. ... Dark haired with large, limpid brown eyes and a shy, infectious grin, he could have stood in for Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause,' but despite his disarming demeanor, he argued his positions with passion, persuasiveness, and persistence. For a thin man, he was very hard to get around." Kamanjar has also bettered himself over the past few years by submitting himself to exhaustive executive coaching. Apparently, he also relies heavily on a talented lieutenant named Shishir Mehrortra.
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