Microsoft vs Google OR is it complicated vs complex?

RSS Feed

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 ( http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/ff_facebookwall) . 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…

Top