What Would Google Do? – in paperback

After almost three years, What Would Google Do? is out in paperback. Oh, no, now I have two things to hawk. It comes with a new afterword. A snippet from that (with rules from the book highlighted):

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The best part of writing What Would Google Do? came after it was published, when people from a surprising range of sectors shared with me how they had tested the rules you’ve just read in their own endeavors.

I spoke with a convention of truck-stop owners who realized that their way stations could act as nodes to build networks among drivers who have information to share with each other. Join a network. Be a platform. Think distributed.

At the other end of the demographic spectrum, I heard from executives at two of the largest luxury-goods companies in the world, who saw value in opening up even their exclusive design processes so they could build direct relationships with new tastemakers and new talent and become curators of quality and luxury. Elegant organization.

At another extreme, I heard foundations speculate about how different their work would be if they opened up their structures to identify new needs, new grantees to meet those needs, new ways to measure their success, and new ways to leverage their assets by encouraging others to help in their work. Join the open-source, gift economy.

At a meeting of librarians, we faced their worst case—closing libraries—and then catalogued the value they will still add when information and search are digital but human expertise and guidance aren’t. Atoms are a drag.

A group of postal executives wondered what Google would do if it ran the Post Office. One official speculated that it would give every American a computer and printer, replacing mail and slashing cost. This discussion led to a conference in Washington called PostalVision 2020, where I pushed the industry not to try to fix the Postal Service a cutback at a time but to bravely consider what the market would and could do on its own. Beware the cash cow in the coal mine. Do what you do best and link to the rest. Get out of the way.

At the height of the financial crisis, I moderated a session at Davos in which entrepreneurs speculated about how to fix the broken banking industry. They imagined creating the bank that is open about all its data, from investments to salaries. Be honest. Be transparent. Don’t be evil.

Lufthansa ran a brainstorming session with a score of social-media practitioners at the DLD Conference in Munich, wondering how even an airline could be Googley. The bottom line: Customers want airlines to share information with them (why is the plane late?) and then they will be willing to share information back if airlines make good use of it (for example, assigning me the exact seat I like best). There is an inverse relationship between control and trust.

Best Buy’s tweeting chief marketing officer, Barry Judge (@BestBuyCMO), had me come to the company’s headquarters to try out some of the ideas here. I learned more from them than they did from me as I witnessed a smart company that is trying to move past just selling things in boxes to providing service and expertise. Best Buy opened up its infrastructure to allow others to build stores atop it. It has 3,000 sales people answering customers’ questions through a single Twitter account (@Twelpforce), turning them into the “human search engine.” It also is becoming a media company, selling promotional opportunities in stores. Decide what business you’re in.

Sales guru and author Jeffrey Gitomer invited me visit his staff to help them decide how they could be Googlier. I suggested they start by gathering the best sales tips from their own readers, who are out there selling and succeeding every day. Gitomer himself blogs and tweets and that inspired his new book, Social BOOM!, about this new way to do business together. Trust the people. Your customers are your ad agency.

In my next book, Public Parts, I also tell the story of a very Googley car company Local Motors, which designs cars openly. Collaborate. I also report on visionaries who are rethinking retail from the ground up, now that Google and the net make pricing transparent. Google commodifies everything. Welcome to the Google economy.

Most fun of all, I have heard of church pastors who aspire to be Googley, leaving their brick walls behind to go to where the parishioners live, using the web as a tool. Church Magazine suggests a “move from giving answers to asking questions.” Listen. Trust the people. Everybody needs Googlejuice.

These church folks did not fall for the joke in the title of this book. Google isn’t God and these laws here are not immutable. “We don’t consider Jarvis’s rules to be sacred or unchanging,” Leisa Anslinger and Daniel S. Mulhall wrote in the magazine, “but they do provide a valuable tool to help us rethink how we are to be a church in the twenty-first century.”

It is with some considerable relief that I read What Would Google Do? today and find that its gospel still stands. But then, as I said at the beginning, this is not really a book about Google but about the changes overtaking our world. Those changes only prove to be more disruptive—and more important to understand—by the day.

  • Garrett Moon

    Congrats Jeff. After three years WWGD is still a classic in my library and one that I reccomend to my clients. I will definetally be picking up a few to hand out to them

  • Eric

    I am confused.

    If the paperback version is just coming out now, what is the paperback version that I bough 6 months ago?
    Is it an anomaly or did it time travel thanks to the new Nutrino findings?

    • That was an international (airport) trade paperback version. This is the US paperback version; it has been in hardback here for almost three years.

    • Oh, and thanks for buying it … and for the nutrino joke. I’ve been hoping for more of those!

      • Eric

        Glad to have read it (and actually paid for it) and will be happy to pass on future humorous items as appropriate.

        As it is I found myself in your Craig’s List vs Apple pricing model discussion recently as we try to figure out how to price our services. The argument “But they can afford to pay more” vs the we want as many customers (and thus data) as possible.

        Your book and examples were priceless in this.

        Although, in the past 2 days I found that Amazon is using this same minimum price concept in a letter on their main page (www.amazon.com) in reference to the new Kindle Fire.

        Thanks again for the great book.

  • duncan

    loved the book

  • Hi Jeff,
    I just got done with your book this week. Picked it up in Frankfurt the other day while browsing a book store waiting for my flight. So yes, being out there in paperback does work.

    I must say it is a well thought out piece. You are talking about things I have been talking about for nigh on 20 years now. I do Business Intelligence. I am one of the world leaders in this area. I have written the worlds best data integration tool. The “magic sauce” that pulls data together from many different places.

    In 1993 I first theorised that the ONLY competitive advantage a company could sustain was the advantage of collecting data about their customers and using that data to provide them the best possible product or service based on what you knew about them. Sound familiar? Since that time I have been advising clients that they have two choices.

    1. Create an internal database of ALL the interactions with clients or customers and collect as MUCH information as possible about clients and customers and leverage that information in your product development and sales processes.

    2. Go for low cost provider and hope like hell no one else figures out how to undercut you.

    There is no middle ground. So, you see. Since I have been talking about this since 1993 I found your book very interesting. I am pleased you are bringing the updated version of this to the for. Maybe more people will believe me now.

    Your book is good enough I gave it a plug over here.


    But I do have one other thing to say. For all the obvious intelligence you display and all the people you have met (Larry, Sergy, Eric, Al Gore, Bono etc). You seem blissfully unaware that our governments are criminal cartels.

    Here is my video standing in the Australian Federal Magistrates Court on a Family Law matter. The transcript is in the drop down box so you can read along. I am the ONLY MAN IN THE WORLD to have done this. And that record has stood for two years now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1IDkx2CtrE

    You will hear me ask the man calling himself david dunkley if he is serving under oath. And you will hear him refuse to reply…twice. What does this mean? When a public officer is serving under oath he is required BY LAW to confirm this when questioned. Check with ANY police officer. That david refused to answer this question means he was NOT UNDER OATH. He was committing the crime of impersonating a public officer.

    The evidence of this crime was presented to Kevin Rudd and Robert McClelland (attorney general) in December 2009. They have refused to do anything about this. We are now going to put ALL federal and state politicians on trial in Australia. You can read about that here.


    The “legal system” in Australia is a criminal cartel in league with the governments and banks. It’s the same in all the western world. Over the last few years I have challenged the likes of Ban ki-Moon, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Brian Cowan, Mary McAleese, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, even the Queen, to please show me the paperwork that says they have any right to tell me what I can and can not do. Seems they can’t do this.

    I have TWO letters from the German GUVMENT saying that they do not see the UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights as binding on the German Guvment. Given the lie that the UN was created to help stop wars like World War Two most people find it STAGGERING that the German Guvment claims that the UDHR does NOT apply to germans. Ban ki-Moon is silent on this issue.

    I wonder if those who read your blog, so many leaders that you talk to, are interested to know that their guvments are criminal cartels in league with the banks, the media, the legal fraternity, and the cops. Of course. I can prove everything I have said. But the most damning evidence of all is a man pretending to be a magistrate in a court and committing a crime and for that crime to be condoned by THE ENTIRE FEDERAL PARLIAMENT. It does not get any more damning than THAT.

    Now Jeff. Would you like the blue pill or the red pill?

    If you take the red pill? Life, as you know it, just ended. But you have a son. Surely you want the best for him, right? And if you want the best for your son? You will take the red pill.

    • Mindley

      I don’t know about Jeff needing any pills, but you might need to take a few mate. A straight jacket might not go astray either.

      Awesome read Jeff. Thanks from Mindley

  • Jeff, great choice and a great read with this book.


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  • Great insights, love this book!

  • Jeff,

    Bought your book on the weekend – soft cover. Am up to page 70. Really good stuff. Full of opportunity – thank you. I have two questions:

    1. Given that the book was written in 2009 and we live in an era when things change rapidly (2009 could almost be last century), would you make any major changes to your observations?

    2. How do things change now with the advent of mobile web ie. trying to develop platforms, get distributed etc? In the past we could develop entirely for PC-type devices, now we have to think mobile especially given the upcoming DSL speed increases. (Or am I side-tracked?)


    • John,
      I wrote a new afterword for the American paperback, which just came out, so it’s a longer answer than a comment. In brief, I am happy that most all the rules hold up. Google itself has new challenges it’s meeting in new ways. I’ve written much here about how mobile = local = me; mobile will be a meaningless word as we are connected all the time. that’s why google is going after it.

  • Jeff,

    I am from Australia so no afterword. Re: mobile – please supply a link to the information on this site (or others) that you refer to.


    Will check out your new book when I finish this one. JG

  • Hideo Gotoh

    Thought this is a must-read for me, an long-form account of Google written by someone who understand both social platform and journalism.
    Yesterday, I found two paperback copies at one of the best bookshops in Tokyo.
    Maybe they are what you explained as international edition and have been availabe for months or years.
    Anyway I bought one, of course.

  • Valentina

    Dear Jarvis,
    I sent an email to you something like an year ago..but I never had an answer. I guess you were busy. I’m from Italy, and I red your book “WWGD” because my thesy is about it. I asked u even just a comment, or an advice. you say that is important to speak with the people; listen well is one of the google rules, isn’t it? you say that interaction and dialog are important, too.
    I could act like “angry Jim”.. do you remember him? I could start a blog..saying all over the world that mr. Jeff Jarvis is too busy to answer an email from an italian curious fan.
    Ok..I’m just jokin’… :) But I really hope, one day, to have an answer back. just to say that you listen to anybody.. even if I come from the other side of the ocean!
    Thanks for your work. I appreciate it.

    • Valentina,
      I just searched my email — Google keeps it all — and found no email from you. Hope that explains why you didn’t hear from me. Now that doesn’t mean that I respond to all emails; I’m not very organized.

  • Wow, this book is a must-read book, i am from germany, but i read more english books than german, finally a great read with this book. Thanks for it. I think that you can write another book of this theme in a few years

  • Oh man, I almost spilled my coffee laughing at church pastors who aspire to be Googley, leaving their brick walls behind to go to where the parishioners live…

    This is most certainly true as google has more satisfactory answers to any questions than their holy books.

  • Hi Jeff,
    I just finished reading your book in paperback :) I take it that you enjoy making money on your blog, so why don’t you have a 728×90 adsense advertisement in your footer. Google would do it… http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en&ctx=as2&answer=1354747&rd=1

    My footer ads have always made me the most money.

  • Gorm Ganderup

    Hi Jeff,

    What a truly excellent eye-opener of a book – I haven’t even read it all yet and I’m already preaching its content to friends and colleagues :-)

    It’s fantastic to see its logic unfold and examples popping up everywhere around you – you really start to perceive the world with different eyes.

    An amazing example I came across this morning is Copenhagen Suborbitals http://www.copenhagensuborbitals.com. Two crazy DIY Danes on a mission to build a rocket and launch it in orbit, manned mind you – and funded exclusively by sponsors and donors.

    And going open all the way blogging their technical solutions, posting videos, making their sketch books public and inviting the public to their engine tests publishing their data and the list goes on.
    In short: Opening up and including their community in the solution.
    English blog: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/rocketshop
    Danish blog: http://ing.dk/blogs/rumfartpaadenandenmaade (translating to “space travel the other way :)

    This is NASA upside-down and I love the project – the fact that something as complex as putting a man in orbit is made a public project is as fascinating as it is logic – why shouldn’t they? What do they have to loose? And if it is possible to go non-profit and open source with something as mystery shrouded and heavily funded as the space industry I can’t imagine any industry that cannot be transformed to the Google-age.

    Jeff, be sure to include this stunning example in the possible future updates of your book, when it goes online and keeps evolving (or whatever your plans are :)

    Cheers from Denmark – and now I must read a few more chapters of your excellent book ;)