Recently three senior guys at Google, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle, published a book titled “How Google Works“. As the title suggests, this book explains the thought process behind running Google as a company. It is a terrific read, regardless whether you’re a business man or just some guy looking for work (-> pointing to me <-). What's surprising for me is that there are similiarities between the general concepts written there and what drives the current government of Jakarta! Here are some points I noticed from reading the book and watching so (too) many videos from the media and the ones published by the Jakarta government.
1. Sharing what you have
The default mode of Google is being open. They share quite a lot of their intellectual properties (Android, for example). Of course there will be certain things that are kept as trade secret (their search tweaks are the most obvious example), as they are for profit company at the end of the day. The main point behind this is that if the whole industry benefits from what they’ve shared, Google will also reap its rewards. A win-win situation.
The government of Jakarta also thinks in a similar way. The current governor, Basuki Purnama, stated that if other Indonesian provinces are prosperous, the economy of Jakarta will also benefit. Several concrete steps have been done in this direction, for example by providing budgetary gifts to cities surrounding Jakarta to build supporting infrastructure.
2. Make decisions based on data (the real data)
Google makes their decisions based on data. Before meetings that yield decisions, relevant data are gathered. When no data exists, the “highest-paid person’s opinion” (HiPPO) holds. More precisely, only in this case does the HiPPO hold. Therefore, decisions can be made more objectively catered to what is necessary.
The decisions made in Jakarta are now based on data, the real data, based on all the blusukan (impromtu visits) done by the chiefs of the public servants and the direct reports from the Jakartans to the head of the government. If there are conflicting arguments in interpreting the data, they invite knowledgable people who have the conflicting views to explain to them (in a discussion) what would be better. The tie breaker is done by the governor, being the “highest-positioned person”. More importantly, decisions are being made and executed.
Speaking of blusukan, it is really vital in successful companies. (Note that blusukan ≠ micromanage.)
3. Effective overcommunication
The gist to communicate effectively on a particular concept or idea is to say it like twenty times before it truly sinks in on the other side. By this time, the one who says it will start to be sick of saying it, but it is the starting point where others start to get it. There are other aspects related to this, for example, whether the communication is inspirational, authentic, going to the right people, truhful and uses the right media.
The Jakarta’s government uses YouTube where videos about various activities of the top guys in the government (governor, vice governor and general secretary) are documented. What makes it authentic is the lack of censorship on the videos and the breadth of full meetings being uploaded. While there are some editing, most dialogues present in the meetings are in the video verbatim. These top guys are also consistent in saying the same things over and over again (like using the safetipin app that aggregates information about safety and problems in a neighborhood). The frequent use of analogues is also useful in communicating the intention to the audience of the videos with encompassing all kinds of backgrounds: the people of Jakarta.
There are, however, some stark differences. One that grabbed me the most is the rule on following competition. In the book, the authors state that business should not follow what the competition is doing. Instead of trying to do this incremental, low-impact changes, try to rethink how a problem can be solved such that the results is 10 times better than what we already have now.
The Jakarta government has a different take on this. Instead of thinking about a novel solution to existing problems, they adapt solutions that already work in other cities, because then the mistakes made in other cities do not need to be repeated. Thus, Jakarta can get up to speed. That said, compared to what Jakarta has (had), this simple idea is indeed the one that gives the biggest impact, with the least trial and error cost.
I wonder if there are more parallels can be made… I probably will need to read the book once more to get more ideas 🙂