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March 21, 2007

Interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google: "You don't learn very much when you yourself are talking"


The guys at iInnovate posted a lovely interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. Among the topics they covered were:

  • Anti-trust (with a beautiful deke to create “time and space” as we say in hockey)

  • Innovation

  • Competitive advantages

  • Motivation of entrepreneurs

  • Maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit

  • Traditional and non-traditional organization design

  • What Microsoft and Yahoo does that impresses him

  • Invention of disruptive technologies

My favorite line was: “You don’t learn very much when you yourself are talking.”


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Oh, I think you were so right to have focused on that specific quote. I like even better what he said just before that -- that teaching is the best way to learn, though maybe that’s because I teach. But I can certainly attest to the truth of his statement. I have learned more in the ten years of teaching than I learned in all my years as a student (and I like to think I was a good student). It isn’t just listening that does it, though that’s a big part of it. In addition, it involves being forced to think about a subject in depth. You certainly can’t hope to stand before a class and talk, even if you are just discussing, if you haven’t really thought through your topic. As a result, you are forced to learn that topic in an entirely new, and incredibly thorough way. I don’t guess I knew that he did this each week, but I’m glad to know he does. It makes me even more idealistic about how the web might actually turn out in the end.

Great quote from the 'You have two ears and one mouth' school of thinking

i know lots of things about SEO but never heard CEO. now i am reading and learning

Am I dying to work for Google? No. I wouldn't even feel proud working for a company with such a stupid concept. Yahoo!, go kick their butts!!

When I first saw them, I thought, "that's interesting; cool product." But after a few encounters with other sites that used them, I could easily see the downside.

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Guy, I was very interested in Eric Schmidt's comments on ethics--as someone who has spent the last several years spreading the message that ethics can be a powerful success driver in business.

Google's ethics are very high when it comes to returning high-quality search results and developing customer-friendly products/unequaled user experience, and I think this has contributed directly to the company's success. However, Google's approach to the rights of content creators versus the company's stated desire to index the world's entire store of information certainly opens up a lot of ethics questions among publishers who feel their rights are being trampled.

Thanks for flagging this interview.

Shel Horowitz, shel (AT) principledprofit.com, 800-683-WORD/413-586-2388

Marketing & publishing consultant/copywriter, award-winning author of

* Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts
People First http://www.principledprofit.com

* Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers

* Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World
http://www.frugalmarketing.com /

-->Join the Business Ethics Pledge - Ten Years to Change the World,
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The line, "You don’t learn very much when you yourself are talking" is a rip-off of an old Lyndon Johnson quote. He once said, "You can't learn much while you're talking." The possibility that LBJ stole it from someone else is, of course, quite real.

It would be great if you can interview the Head of Recruiting at Google. I think they are plain arrogant and stupid in forgoing candidates with excellent background that would make a best fit to the job (this is the exact words from one of their recruiters), but with a less than perfect GPA from a less prestigious college.

They can afford to do this now because of the buzz, and everyone wants to work there. What does a perfect GPA has to do with the ability to work in teams, lead a successful project and handle conflicts? I don't know, I haven't seen much of a connection in my HR life.

Google poses itself as a fun and innovative workplace but retains such an oldschool restrictions on their hiring practices - it is plain stupid in my opinion.

Am I dying to work for Google? No. I wouldn't even feel proud working for a company with such a stupid concept. Yahoo!, go kick their butts!!

Another thing I like about Schmidt is that he doesn't get consumed by the moves (or words) of Google's competitors.

In an interview with Business 2.0 a couple of years ago, Schmidt was asked to respond to a statement from a Microsoft leader about Google, hinting Microsoft was now the “underdog.” Schmidt replied by saying, “He’s welcome to say whatever he’d like. I’m happy to talk about Google.”

I don't think his comment wasn’t competitive naiveté, but an appropriate view of the competition. Schmidt's line of, "You don’t learn very much when you yourself are talking.” also applies when we're preoccupied by listening to competitors or watching their every move. Being consumed by a competitors voice drowns out the voice of the market and misdirects (or kills) our attempts at real innovation.

I disagree that it will be hard in the future to duplicate ASP software distribution.
Its the same as hosting companies were not as sophisticated when they started out but now we have mosso and mediatemple which launched first stage cheap grid hosting.
I believe that a google type "application grid" will be commonly available.
The value lies in creating superior software similar to as adobe wants to launch photoshop for the web via AJAX frameworks or Flash.


Your blog is such an inspiration to me and many others in the world Guy. Thank you for covering the stories you do and posting the obvious to remind us of the opportunities we have available to us.

Really enjoyed the podcast. Specifically the part about Google considering itself an "Infrastructure Distribution Company". Interesting.

Technically, the best way to learn a given subject is to teach said subject to others.

"You don't learn very much when you yourself are talking" definitely applies to intranets.

I wrote a post last November about a talk given by Jeffrey Veen from Google at KMWorld & Intranets 2006 where he talked about - among other things - getting users involved in design.

Too many intranets are top-down, which explains why they never become truly business critical for an organisation.

Management needs to learn to listen, and it has to be obvious from their intranets that they want to hear from employees.

Intranets are very often the lifeline in large, decentralised organisations and therefore one of the most powerful listening tools available to management.

Maybe this is off topic, but...

I noticed the "Snap" previews are AWOL from your site all of a sudden.

When I first saw them, I thought, "that's interesting; cool product." But after a few encounters with other sites that used them, I could easily see the downside.

Question: have you had a change of heart about this product? Have you encountered your own downside? If so, could you share that with us, and why?




Snap is still here. I didn't remove it. I think it's very useful and cool. Most things are just cool. :-)


I am one of your many readers, keep up the good work, your ideas here are cool ^__^
stay happy

sometimes i learn i can't talk very well when i'm talking...does that count? ;)

Great quote from the 'You have two ears and one mouth' school of thinking

I read your blog in my feedreader and this annoying MajikWidget opens a browser tab everytime i read an entry of yours. :(

“You don’t learn very much when you yourself are talking.”

Rule #1 for sales & (product) marketing people : let the customer talk.
Always keep in mind the old saying : "Talk to me about myself, that is the only thing of interest for me"...

Mr. Kawasaki:
Enjoy your blog very much. You might turn that phrase on it's head for additional wisdom. You can't teach anyone anything if you keep your mouth shut.

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