Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Larry Page on Speed: “There Are No Companies That Have Good Slow Decisions”

Here’s the last session of this week’s Google Zeitgeist conference, a thinky/cultural event the company puts on for its big clients and would-be clients. It’s a Q&A with CEO Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, who used to be CEO, until April of this year.

There’s lots of good stuff in here, though I’d advise skipping Page’s introductory comments and heading right to the 16-minute mark, where he and his old adult supervisor field questions. I’d also advise using Danny Sullivan’s liveblog of the event as a reference guide.

Danny and other folks have noted Page’s initial response to a question about Google’s biggest threat (“Google”). But do watch the whole thing, which starts at the 38-minute mark.

After Schmidt praises Page’s direct management style, Page cuts in and gets more direct. Google, he says, has to get faster even as it gets bigger:

One of the interesting things that we’ve noticed is that companies correlate on decision making and speed of decision making. There are basically no companies that have good slow decisions. There are only companies that have good fast decisions. I think that’s also a natural thing as companies get bigger — they tend to slow down decision making. And that’s pretty tragic.

Bonus game for armchair psychologists — check out the body language and vibe as the two men field the first question, about the company’s early history.

If it was a different kind of event, and the two were different kinds of speakers, I would assume this was deadpan shtick. But I’m reasonably sure that it’s not, and at the very least, Page and Schmidt have different memories about Google’s formative years.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik