Microsoft vs Google OR is it complicated vs complex?

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After having completed about five and half years with Microsoft and now having joined Cognitive Edge I’ve reflected on the experience there. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft is a great company and still do some amazing things, but they are not without challenges. In that sense they and Google and other large organizations share a common trait. In another sense they are quite different. I joined Microsoft in 2005, after 6 years with IBM, that in itself was a big cultural shift. I remember vividly about a year into to my employment with Microsoft, chatting with a “long-timer” and I made the remark, “wow, I’ve had more parties, events and social activities in my first 12 months with Microsoft, then I had in 6 years with IBM”. He smiled and then responded with a wistful look on his face, “It’s nothing like it used to be”. Anyway the thing that struck me in my first few months was the over-reliance on data. The amount of spreadsheets, scorecards and data and analysis was mind-boggling. That being said, the intellect in the company is awesome, I quickly found I needed to be careful and have a healthy respect of the intellect whenever I walked into any meeting. My sense is that the reliance on data spills over into how the company approached marketing. If I were to characterize the approach, I’d see this as a clear set of activities / actions in the Complicated domain (of the Cynefin framework). I see this as a set of assumptions that we can narrow probabilities to an acceptable risk, through reliance on experts/data. I contrast that with some tangible external evidence that Google’s approach in “the marketplace” as being more complex in the nature of the response, I characterize this as “Let’s throw this over the wall to the public and see what happens?” Interestingly they get pilloried by analysts about the failures (Google Wave anyone?), I however see this as a strength, not a weakness. Ironically compared to Facebook, Google’s approach is characterized as an analytical approach, as opposed to a reliance on social media ( . So the question I ask is this: “Is a marketplace complex or complicated?” I’d suggest that most things in life are hybrid in nature and defy this rude form of categorization, so let’s modify the question: “How do we treat the complex and complicated aspects of a marketplace in an appropriate way and in what order?”. I’m going to leave it there for now…