How Is Google Like Attila

Attila the Hun on horseback by George S Stuart

How can a major US corporation with a mantra of ‘Do No Evil’ have anything in common with an ancient emperor who was feared by all and known as ‘The Scourge Of God’. Of course, details are sketchy on the real nature of Attila the Hun.  However perhaps there may be more in this comparison than meets the eye.

This notion came to mind on reading a New York Times article, Google Casts a Big Shadow on Smaller Web Sites.

Here is a quote from that article which caught my eye.

Regulators in the United States and Europe are conducting sweeping inquiries of Google, the dominant Internet search and advertising company. Google rose by technological innovation and business acumen; in the United States, it has 67 percent of the search market and collects 75 percent of search ad dollars. Being big is no crime, but if a powerful company uses market muscle to stifle competition, that is an antitrust violation.

Notice that word dominance.  If you had looked at the old world in the year 453 A.D., this was the picture.

hunnic empire 453 ad

Attila the Hun had managed to dominate large sections of the known world at that time in creating his Hunnic Empire.  Even that huge slice of territory was insufficient for his appetites, and he aimed to conquer a number of other territories.  But he had reached his limit.

Can Google learn from Attila

As Michael Porter has pointed out, one of the toughest decisions when planning strategy is when to say No.  Just because you have the financial resources to do many things, does not mean that you will be successful in all of them.  As Peter Drucker said Focus Focus Focus is key.

There are many areas that Google is tackling where many of those in the outside world who are involved are frustrated.  Just because a topic is labeled Beta or Labs does not mean that quality considerations can be ignored or treated lightly.  If a major corporation wishes to provide a service, then it should only tackle those where it can be sure its customer service will impress its customers.  By this criterion, Google can be faulted in several areas.

When a company is as dominant as Google, it should realize that its every action will be subject to intense scrutiny.  Better by far that it concentrate its efforts on those activities where it knows it can excel.  Where it can not achieve the highest standards of quality, it should leave the activity to others.  The New York Times article cited above suggests they have not grasped this important lesson.

Image credits:

Attila on Horseback by Peter d’Aprix  [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

Map of Hunnic Empire via awesomestories.com

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