What Google and Prince Have in Common
Google is now the artist formerly known as Google. Unlike when Prince changed his name to , which could not be pronounced, Google has gone with something much more elementary. The corporation that was Google should now be known as Alphabet and the search engine known as Google will still be known as Google, but will just be one letter among many in the Alphabet’s soup. To continue our comparison, Prince is known to be an innovator, is talented on multiple instruments, has dabbled in acting, has amazing vocal range and is pretty much as big a deal as you’ll find. He’s such a big deal he likely has a home office filled with leather-bound books that smells of rich mahogany.
Google is certainly an innovator, has proven to be talented in multiple businesses, has dabbled in some things unsuccessfully (Google +, Google Wave, Google Answers…), has amazing range and is definitely a really big deal. Now, like Prince, Google has decided to rebrand and from my perspective, like Prince, the name change is just cosmetic and the underlying artist is still the same – which in neither case is a bad thing. Prince remained a phenomenon and so will Google for the foreseeable future.
The Google sycophants will praise this move as groundbreaking and further proof that Google is a different kind of company. But for me, it just reminds me not only of Prince, but also of my time at Honeywell. While at Honeywell, I noted that my division seemed to frequently try to reinvent itself by reorganizing. We would slice things in a different way, but it was still the same pie. We thought that the different way of looking at things would bring increased focus on things that mattered and eliminate distraction of the things that didn’t. I think that the reshuffling of the deck did have some positive effects in addition to creating some pretty big distractions.
In Larry Page’s blog post, Larry does an excellent job of creating a feeling of this change as being something very momentous. A good friend of mine read the blog post and then posted to Facebook that in his many years in the tech industry he has never seen something so bold. I am probably just the cynical finance guy, but it seems like if you get right down to it, this is just a really well branded version of my Honeywell reorgs and not too different from the hype around the Artist Formerly Known as Prince…who eventually reorganized back to being Prince.
I’m not saying that Alphabet will be changing its name back in seven years like Prince did, but I have been around long enough to have seen companies praised for spinning out divisions to focus on their core only to turn around and be praised for acquiring back divisions for cost synergies and vertical integration.
We have a tendency to look for the new, new thing. Google does most things really well and they have found a way to make a corporate reorg sound like the new, new thing…but it looks a lot to me like some rebranding coupled with a corporate reorg.
All of this said, if it mobilizes the true believers then it could prove to be a very successful reorg. A huge influence on the success or failure of anything like this is the way the troops react. The more experience I have the more I see that team dynamics and organizational behavior are at the core of success and failure of companies. If it is energizing and creates incremental hard work and creativity, then it will be a successful move. Best of luck to Alphabet and as a final comparison I hope it is a hit just like Prince’s song Alphabet St.