January 18, 2013
Larry Page: Why Companies Fail

Google CEO Larry Page worries something has gone seriously wrong with the way companies are run.

“If you read the media coverage of our company, or of the technology industry in general, it’s always about the competition,” he told Wired in a rare interview as CEO. “The stories are written as if they are covering a sporting event. But it’s hard to find actual examples of really amazing things that happened solely due to competition. How exciting is it to come to work if the best you can do is trounce some other company that does roughly the same thing? That’s why most companies decay slowly over time.”

Of course, Page is aware of Google’s competition. He just doesn’t focus on beating it because beating it isn’t enough. Instead, he lives and breathes by the driving force of innovation. While most companies would be happy with a 10 percent product improvement, Page expects nothing less than 1000 percent.

Then again, innovation isn’t always enough either. Without a marriage to smart commercialization, a company’s ingenuity will never see the light of day.

“Look, you may have the greatest maps in the world,” Page said in regard to Google Maps and products like it, “But if nobody uses them, it doesn’t matter. Our philosophy has always been to get our products out to as many people as possible . . . There’s a lot of sad stories . . . about amazing people who didn’t have much impact, because they never turned their inventions into businesses.”

But a company like Google understands that the evolution of commercialization isn’t always easy. As Google has become more and more powerful (not to mention intimidating), it has met its fair share of backlash and outcry concerning privacy and copyright issues.

“It’s certainly not pleasant,” he said. “But show me a company that failed because of litigation. I just don’t see it. Companies fail because they do the wrong things or they aren’t ambitious, not because of litigation or competition.”