Groupthink at Google?

Just a short note. I am worried that we might be seeing symptoms of groupthink coming out of Google.

First Sundar Pichai on making money.

As ever, Google makes such a killing on advertising—including, now, on YouTube—that it just doesn’t have to consider commerce when it doesn’t want to. “The model emerges later,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s powerful senior vice-president of products and the master of its Android and Chrome software platforms.

“I’ve always been comfortable building in two directions,” he added in an interview following a two-hour-plus keynote presentation to thousands of developers. “First, if we help users get information, a lot of which is inherently commercial, monetization opportunities arise. Second, history always shows that if you build something millions or billions of people end up using, that builds a lot value too.”

Next Google’s Chief Business Officer, Omid Kordestani.

Q: How would Google monetize a self-driving cars?

A: The lesson I’ve learned over these years, you have to build it first. If the users come, you can monetize it later.

These comments may not have mattered too much 5 years ago when desktop PCs were still going strong, and the issue of declining cost-per-click on mobile was still not an issue. However, now in 2015, Google is facing serious questions on maintaining its financial growth. There is the issue that Google is not as profitable on mobile as it is on the desktop. There is the issue that mobile users don’t even use the Web as much. There is the issue that Apple may distance itself from Google. There is the issue that AOSP may unbundle Android from Google’s money earning services. There is the issue that Google still generates most of its revenue from search advertising and the “moonshot” projects aren’t predicted to remedy that situation any time soon. There is the issue that the EU is having an issue with the way Google is driving money generating traffic to its own sites. That is why Google’s stock price has been performing very badly for the last two years.

You would expect Google to understand the concerns that investors have, and at least make some comments that would sooth their anxiety. However, to the contrary, we hear even the Chief Business Officer tell us that he basically has no concrete idea yet on how to make money, but it will be fine.

I wonder if somehow Google’s management has lost track of what is happening in the real world. Maybe it has lost a member who used to tell them that they have to at least give a casual thought about earning money. That is the groupthink that I am worried about.

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