Google’s Success: Why Its Culture Is the Cause

Table of contents

Google’s culture is what defines its leadership style, power structure, motivation theories, and its employees’ commitment to the company. Google states on its own website “though Google has grown a lot since it opened in 1998, we still maintain a small company feel. At lunchtime, almost everyone eats in the office cafe, sitting at whatever table has an opening and enjoying conversations with Googlers from different teams. Our commitment to innovation depends on everyone being comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. Every employee is a hands-on contributor, and everyone wears several hats. Because we believe that each Googler is an equally important part of our success, no one hesitates to pose questions directly to Larry or Sergey in our weekly all-hands (“TGIF”) meetings – or spike a volleyball across the net at a corporate officer” (Google, 2010).

In order to understand how the culture of Google affects the aforementioned leadership, power, motivation, and commitment, a closer examination is required. LeadershipGoogle’s leadership style is not top-down. Based on their flat organization style the company is more democratic than autocratic in its culture. According to Karen Goodwin at Google, “We’re a highly collaborative culture… There’s no top-down hierarchy” (Yung, 2007 p1).

The founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin are still active in the day-to-day operation of the company. For a couple of billionaires it is interesting they are still so passionate about the company considering all the other options they have with such accumulated wealth. However, they created a company culture “that deeply believes in delegation. Individual employees are encouraged to speak their mind from the first day, and even decisions classically reserved for management, such as hiring, are done through a collaborative process” (Johansson, 2010). It can easily be seen that the leadership style of Google is to promote a robust open communication environment where all employees are encouraged to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas.


The source of power at Google rests within the employee base at large. There are no managers setting employee agendas, but rather employees are expected to do so without supervision. In Building a ‘Googley’ Workforce Sara Kehaulani Goo states of Google’s approach to innovation that “generous, quirky perks keep employees happy and thinking in unconventional ways, helping Google innovate as it rapidly expands into new lines of business” (Goo, 2006). Part of Google’s business strategy is innovation and it recognizes that innovation comes from every employee, not just the top management. Greg Johansson states in his article “organizationally, Google maintains a casual and democratic atmosphere, resulting in its distinction as a ‘Flat’ company. The company does not boast a large middle management, and upper management is so hands on, it’s hard to qualify them in a separate category. Teams are made up of members with equal authority and a certain level of autonomy is maintained” (Johansson, 2010). This shows that the source of power is disseminated throughout the organization and that at every level employees are empowered to make decisions that at many companies must come from the upper management. This departure from the typical top-down power structure is one of the reasons Google can and does innovate so quickly since every member of company has an open forum to express new ideas and thoughts about how to improve things.


The motivation of the employees of Google is the easiest thing to see in the company. The company encourages its employees to plan their workday thus allowing for a freedom for each employee that allows them to find their own personal best motivation to do their job to the best of their ability. An article at Blogs. Reuters. om about an interview with Nikesh Arora, Google’s President of Global Sales Operations and Business Development states “how Google is able to keep its garage-workshop spirit of innovation even as the company swelled to 20,000 employees. The key, he said [Arora], was to establish a ‘culture of yes’ where the default option is for management to approve employees’ new ideas and projects rather than trying to nitpick and say no” (Rudegeair, 2010). This type of open communication and freelance attitude towards employees communicating new ideas is seen as one of the top reasons for Google’s success.

The leadership style required for this is one of openness where employees are trusted and empowered based on the known commitment of the employees towards their employer Google that is engendered by Google’s corporate culture. Kevin Ryan, a vice president of SearchEngineWatch. com is quoted by Yung as saying “the Google culture is probably one of the most positive, influential, all-encompassing, productivity-inducing environments the world has ever seen” (Yung, 2007 p1).It is apparent that what motivates Google employees comes from within them since the management is so open and allows the employees to set their own agendas within the scope of the employees’ job duties with little to no oversight. Google’s company culture allows different motivational theories to motivate its employees.

Goal setting, Self Efficacy, Equity, Expectancy, and Cognitive

Evaluation theories all are applicable when evaluating the employees’ motivational factors at Google. Without the open air of communication within Google it would be hard for so many different motivational theories to be present, little lone effective.

Another aspect of Google’s communication is seen in the way new employees are hired. Once an application is accepted and the applicant is being considered for a position, the process of employees giving their input starts. Employees can respond via e-mail, thereby updating the system. Karp says this allows recruiters to tap employees who best understand the demands of the jobs and the nature of the culture in assessing the fit of potential hires.It allows current employees to build the community–even if they are not part of the formal interview process” (Wright, 2008).

This type of inclusion of employees garners a strong team atmosphere and helps to ensure that new hires will mesh well with the current employees and the culture at Google. Commitment The source of a strong commitment from a workforce has been studied at length by sociologists. Understanding the commitment of the employees of Google only requires a look at how they are treated by management, previously discussed, and a look at benefits that are given to them in the cope of their employment with Google. Google offers many amenities to its employees that work at the corporate headquarters in Mountain View California, also known as the Googleplex. A short list of the amenities given freely to Google employees found in an article entitled How Google Works by Jonathan Strickland are:

  1. Several cafe stations where employees can gather to eat free food and have conversations
  2. Snack rooms stocked with goodies ranging from candy to healthy foods like carrots and yogurt
  3. Exercise rooms Game rooms with video games, foosball, pool tables, and ping-pong
  4. A baby grand piano for those who enjoy tickling the ivories

In addition, the article states that full medical and dental coverage is provided, “tutition reimbursement, a child care center, adoption assistance services, an on-site doctor, financial planning classes” and others (Strickland, 2010).

Not many Fortune 500 companies offer so many benefits to even their top-executives.It is easy to understand that in an environment where an employee’s voice is heard, treated with respect, and offered so many perks that the commitment of Google’s employees is understandable and easy to grasp.


Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. This does not hold true when it comes to the name Google. Its name represents a departure from the norm of doing business. Its groundbreaking culture is counter intuitive to today’s modern business world and sets a new standard in regards to what can be expected from an employee. The flat organizational structure and leadership style, the open communication between top management and employees, the allowance of employees to find their own motivation, and the dissemination of the power structure to the employee base as a whole allow for a strong commitment from the employees to Google. It is the originality within Google’s culture that enables it to be successful. That success is built upon the effort of its employees based on their commitment.


  1. Google. (2010). The Google Culture, Retrieved December 3, 2010, from ttp://www. google. com/corporate/culture. html. Rudegeair, Peter.
  2. (2010), Google’s Culture of Yes, Retrieved December 4, 2010, from http://blogs. reuters. com/chrystia-freeland/2010/11/19/googles-culture-of-yes/.Johansson, G. (2010), Google: The World’s Most Successful Corporate Culture, Retrieved December 4, 2010, from http://www.
  3. suite101. com/content/google-the-worlds-most-successful-corporate-culture-a242303.Yung, K. (27 August). Engine for change: Head of Google’s Ann Arbor office works to build business that can boost state’s economy. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, Page 1. Retrieved December 6, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Complete.
  4. (Document ID: 1325995971).Wright, A. (2008). At Google, It Takes A Village To Hire an Employee. HRMagazine, 5356. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database. Goo, S.
  5. (2006). Building a ‘Googley’ Workforce, Retrieved December 5, 2010, from http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/20/AR2006102001461.
  6. html.Strickland, J. (2010). How Google Works, Retrieved December 6, 2010, from http://computer. howstuffworks. com/internet/basics/google6. htm.

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