Kevin McMahon


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Google I/O 2019


This year’s Google I/O kicked off amid calls for increased scrutiny and more regulation of the entire tech industry. Given the recent trust, privacy, and security issues, tensions between the public and the tech industry are rising. Action to stem a public backlash against the tech industry is overdue.

In Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt cites three elements that every good strategy: a diagnosis, guiding policies and coherent actions. The diagnosis characterizes and explains the nature of the challenge. Guiding policies establish an approach for dealing with the challenge. Coherent actions serve to execute the guiding policies. This underlying structure is what Rumelt calls the kernel of a strategy. In the keynote, a new strategy or kernel seemed to emerge from Google — one that sought to counter the wave of bad press the technologies that underpin Google’s core businesses received.

I have captured the essence of Google’s new strategy below in the kernel structure. It maps neatly into what Rumelt was addressing.


Google has been learning about everyone for over 20 years. They’re the king of data collection and analytics. They are the top ad network, analytics services, and data ingestion network on the planet. It is Google’s dominance in these areas that make people uncomfortable. Given the recent spate of security and privacy violations, it is understandable. The public is leery about trusting one company with all this information. Can one company secure it, respect the user’s wishes, and not be creepy?

The recent problems at Facebook and Amazon have ensnared Google. Disdain is growing for machine learning and artificial intelligence. Their core businesses built on these technologies are coming under scrutiny from regulators. More discussion is needed about the positive aspects of the technologies.

Guiding Policies

  • Be transparent and clear about what and why Google is collecting data.
  • Respect the user’s privacy and security.
  • Make it easier to understand what is happening with their data.
  • Provide tools to control or limit the amount of data sharing that is occurring.
  • Show the tangible benefits that these technologies can make.

Coherent Actions

Google distilled their new strategy down to a single theme: be helpful. It was interesting to see the talk part of their strategy get rolled out. Talking about a more helpful Google attempts to change the narrative, but talk is cheap. In the coming months and years, we will see if Google’s strategy gets embodied in their actions.