Google Probably Need A New Mission Statement

November 4, 2014 - Written By David Steele

Google’s mission statement is the rather staid, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Like most of my friends, no like all of my friends, I much prefer the beautifully simply motto, “don’t be evil.” However, Larry Page, Google’s Chief Executive Officer, now reckons that the current mission statement is outdated and doesn’t embrace Google’s scope and ambition. Larry’s problem appears to be that the company has limitless ambition; does Google really want a potentially limiting mission statement? If Google believe that they are far beyond organizing the world’s information, what’s next?
Going back a couple of years, Sergey Brin came up with a new mission statement that was rejected: “In general, I think our mission is to use technology to really change the world for the better.” That’s remarkably open even as far as mission statements go. And one problem is how the world views a mission statement; whilst Google believe is might be organizing the world’s information, they’re also making buckets of cash from organizing and selling it on. We’re increasingly seeing some of Google’s special projects, things from robotic cars, the mind-reading abilities of Google Now and projects to extend human life or raise the (useful) dead. It sounds like the plot of the sort of science fiction B-movie that makes me mute my smartphone on an otherwise idle Tuesday night.
Google’s influence is currently significant and their objectives will make this massive. When did you last tell a colleague or loved one to search the Internet for something? Or did you suggest they Google that? Google is changing the way society works and by extension, how we work. Their technology will inevitably make people more idle, so what to do with droves of idle people? Perhaps they can program robots or become Google code engineers, so further improve society? In a recent interview with the Financial Times, he explained, “It’s a really interesting problem, how do we organize our democracies? If you look at satisfaction in the US, it’s not going up, it’s going down. That’s pretty worrying.”
What can we use as a mission statement for Google, then? The source article at CNET suggests a few: “We’ll work everything out. You just sit and wait for us to tell you what to do,” or “Making the world a rational place, and, boy, wouldn’t that be so much better?” So far so good, but a part of me wonders if Google really need worry about a mission statement? Is it something employees need to chant every morning when they arrive at the office? Perhaps it’s less Google’s mission statement that is outdated and more that having a mission statement is outdated?