Out of curiousity, I visited Facebook and Google headquarters. They are both in San Mateo County, and both on the Eastern side of the county next to the bay. They both have beautiful walking paths that go to or around swampy sections of the bay. These innovative companies are of the opinion that employee satisfaction matters a lot. To deliver satisfaction they have fun offices and ways for employees to relieve themselves at the office. You can ride a funny looking bicycle, you can take a walk to the bay in the hills, play golf, and more. They place a high emphasis on recycling, clean air, and happiness. And that is good. But…..
Google had endless amounts of cafes in the buildings near their headquarters. But, they wouldn’t let me in since I don’t work for them. I think they should let me in so I could exchange ideas with their staff. The cafes all looked the same and didn’t seem at all exciting. Then, there were the patios which looked nice. People were working with the laptops. The idea is that you might come up with more innovative ideas if you are sitting in a patio, and perhaps bumping into friends from time to time. Personally, I can’t think in a cafe or patio, but others function quite well in this environment. The goofy looking multi-colored bikes with the google colors were fun to watch. But, are they all they’re cracked up to be. I found Google headquarters to be very square, formulated, unfriendly, and lacking imagination. I’m a huge fan of Google and had hoped for more.
My suggestions for Google
I love Google. You made my career happen! Hurray! But, your headquarters remind me of seeing a dozen Korean kids sitting in a Koreatown cafe all with the same wannabe hip outfits and purple or orange hair. Meanwhile in Santa Monica, aging hipsters and stoned teenagers convened at local cafes. They didn’t have to “try” to be cool — they just were. The Koreans were following some type of prescribed formula for coolness. Wear this outfit, get this hair color — and don’t forget to get a piercing, can’t be cool without the piercing. The Korean kids just looked like a bunch of uptight stiffs who were imitating white kids from the 80’s while Santa Monica’s kids and aging hippies were just being themselves with their far out political theories, marijuana, music, and more…
Google seems to be following a prescribed formula for employee satisfaction.
There are cafes and patios everywhere. Funny looking bicycles, volleyball, hiking, and more. But, why not have more laid back cafes? Do the cafes have to all be the same with a place to slide your employee identity card, and then get in a line to get your stuff? Do the patios have to all be the same? Do the people have to all be so unfriendly? Couldn’t they have cooler bikes with microchips to track them in case they get stolen? In China, tech companies hire hot girls to interact with the programmers. Couldn’t Google hire some friendly people to interact with their employees? They do the opposite. As a visitor, I was kept out of buildings, kept out of cafes, and basically kept out of everything other than the parking lot and the walkway. I’m friendly and interesting not to mention quirky. I think that I’m the perfect guy to bounce ideas off of. Why can’t they see that?
Diversity in hang out environments
In short, Google does a great job on search algorithms, technical stuff, and maintaining a very level graph for delta income (growth.) As far as maintaining a cool atmosphere, they need to have a diversity of ambiance. There needs to be different types of places to hang out with different feelings where you can take your laptop. Perhaps a place overlooking the bay and another laid back cafe with chalkboards announcing their Moroccan mint latte or something. I think better when I can be in diverse environments. Google just makes twenty different choices of environments which are essentially the same. I would create a place where people are virtually forced to interact with people they would not normally interact with. This stimulates different parts of the brain which is essential for innovation which is what Google specializes in. I would also create an underwater tank, where employees could sort of their technical issues in scuba gear. Talk about jazzing it up a bit — or Jacqueing it up! In short, Google is on the right track, but they are too “prescribed” and square in their ideas for having diversions in the work environment. They need to hire some cool people to show them how to really be cool and have a good atmosphere. Having some friendly people wouldn’t hurt either.
The bottom line is that Google’s cool office environment scheme reminded me of those Korean kids in Koreatown cafes who were trying to be cool with their hoodies and piercings when they really seemed like a bunch of unimaginative and uptight kids with no style. But, I do give credit to the quality of the dancing on K-pop even though it is a bit overemphasizing unattainable physical beauty. You can do better Google! I’m on your side!