People marvel at companies like Apple and Google. Companies that have, and still, create amazing things that aren’t just technologically amazing, but amazingly useful and have changed how we interact with the world. When you look at the changing fortunes of Microsoft and Blackberry (nee RIM) you have to wonder how things might have been different for them. Is there something that execs in Redmond or Waterloo could have done to change their fortunes? Of course there are. Scholars, pundits, econ majors, and MBA students are going to dissect the rise and fall of those companies for years. Given that hindsight is 20/20, if given the chance to adopt some new ideas for leading and succeeding, wouldn’t you? Also an obvious, yes. Which is what makes this article from First Round—42 Rules to Lead by from the Man Who Defined Google’s Product Strategy—such an interesting read for leaders (and minions) alike.

Could you change your company culture?

The 42 Rules from former SVP of Products at Google Jonathan Rosenburg reads like a quick fix guide to “becoming the next Google”, but if you dig deeper you’ll see that the changes are tougher and more far reaching than at first blush. Take points 7 “Ditch the pecking order” and 8 “Avoid the HPPO” (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), these challenge a lot of conceptions (and management styles) of many companies. Would you be able to take your intern’s advice over your creative director’s who says the opposite path is correct? Could you? Even if you knew the intern was right? Would your creative director be okay with that?

Hiring the best—Firing the worst

Even shaking up how hiring is done could be challenging for many organizations. Consider the hiring (and firing) practices in points 20–28:

  • Interview well
  • Hire by committee
  • You can’t teach passion
  • Don’t hire specialists
  • Slow down
  • Diversity is your best defense against myopia
  • Be selective
  • Life isn’t fair
  • Identify and purge

Some are easy (interview well, be selective, purge the people who are bringing down a team), but others like slowing down the hiring process, hiring by committee, or not hiring specialists could be tough. Today’s business world feels dominated by specialists of one sort or another. SEO, SEM, sales automation, sales training, marketing analytics, social media “experts, gurus, and ninjas” abound on Twitter and LinkedIn. But where will those specialists be in a few years. Not long ago “business blogging experts” were in high demand. Today many of those people have adapted to other skills and specialties. Maybe finding a person skilled at learning and adapting is better than hiring a person with all the right buzzwords on their LinkedIn profile?

Only Nixon could go to China and only Google can be Google

It’s important for a great leader to carve his or her own path. Sure these are great pieces of advice, but even if you follow all of these traits to the letter, you’re not Jonathan Rosenberg and probably can’t recreate the successes he did. Timing, luck, innate genius, and probably guts and guile that made Google the success it is today. Advice is great to ponder, mull, test, try—and maybe adopt—but in the end the answer to the question: “Could you lead like Google did?” is probably, “No, only Google can do that, I have to lead like me.”

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