Our day started off a little differently today, as we visited the Pittsburgh location of Google. Since this is such a well-known company, I think a lot of us had high expectations for the firm in regards to its company atmosphere and productivity levels. The tour began with a look at the unique office space, or should I say home-like atmosphere. While we couldn’t take any pictures, let me mention that there was everything from a personal massage station, baristas, tech office, gym, and chickens. Moreover, the game room, kitchen, and living room style areas really gave off an interesting effect, that apparently most Googlers don’t even regularly take advantage of. Since the majority of employees are dedicated to their work, it takes a lot of effort by management to encourage they take breaks and go on group activities, such as the trip to Kennywood amusement park that was occurring during our time there. Yet, Google’s 20% plan states that Googlers are allowed to take 20% of their time and dedicate it to side projects, encouraging creativity and an outlet for innovation. When questioning how a Googler is hired at the firm, key characteristics of culture, communication, creativity and cognitive skills were the main aspects that they are looking for so that they can use a “pivot” approach in order to succeed in such a relaxed environment.
One of the projects that our guide was particularly interested in was service outreach in the community. Google has a large role in economic development, especially in the local areas like Homewood, providing not only financial aid but programming, volunteering, and internet access. Education seems to be a field that is targeted frequently, especially in the Pittsburgh location. I believe that this element of corporate social responsibility is crucial for such a big public company such as Google because it ensures community interest and respect, taking their mission to a whole new level. It was mentioned that this involvement provides a way to make partners without outside firms and people that strengthen the business model and expansibility potential. The local Everyday Café, which we will be visiting next week, seems to be a common area for non-profit leaders to meet, and our guide at Google said it was a great way to make connections. Specifically, Google supports entrepreneurship, which leads to further innovation that can be utilized in a coopetive setting. With so many engineers in the area, we even discussed the implications of Amazon locating here, with a response that it will not really have an impact on Google, as much as it will on the city itself. By being open to their surrounding environment and local stakeholders, per open systems theory, they are acquiring further information that can be used in their programming while attracting a market to use their service towards.
After our visit at Google, we had a discussion on what we thought of such a distinctive experience and compared it to our time at EY yesterday. While both firms but a focus on collaboration efforts and encouraging disruptive conflict, Google was unique in the fact that they are driven by engineers who tend to work on an individualistic scale. Personally, as an employee, I would prefer to be in the environment of EY, as they were in a more defined business model, as opposed to the freedom and open-ended mindset at Google. The work environment was also a turn off for me at Google because I felt that the distractions of a home-like environment and casual attire would prevent me from achieving my potential, despite the intensity of the work and grand scale of the company. Yet, I will say that I would definitely integrate the organizational structure of the company, in which the management is more of a mentor than an instructor, whose office is among the rest of the Googlers in an open floor plan. I think this style of leadership is key to inspiring any level of employee to contribute and offer different perspectives.
Back in the classroom, we had the privilege to be taught by Dr. Atkins, the writer of our textbook for our course. He advised that while our tour of Google was informative, there were certain aspects of the company that were not seen, and it may not actually be as “relaxed” as we all thought, as they are probably more similarities to other companies, but “done with a smile.” Since Google has such a competitive internship program and is mainly looking for computer science or engineering students, the reason many of us discussed we would not want to be a part of such a firm is that, as business students, we are more vocationally centered as opposed to intellectually minded.
After exploring how to define an industry and the implications of understanding the specifications of an industry, we applied it to Porter’s 5 forces and how industries can be attractive in order for businesses to have high profitability. I found this topic to be very interesting because of how complicated it is for a business to fully understand an industry since the boundaries are often undefined. In conclusion, I believe that I learned a lot about how firms can truly follow very different business models and what that means for an industry.