Non-Evilness as a Business Strategy

A blog about business and economics.
March 14 2012 9:03 AM

Non-Evilness as a Business Strategy

This James Whittaker piece on "Why I Left Google" is interesting on a number of levels. One of them is that it indirectly sheds light on the possible rationales for a "Don't Be Evil" business model. I've normally been inclined to think of that primarily as a kind of marketing device. It's useful to one's brand to have a reputation for non-evilness and you can extract more long-term value from customers by deliberately avoiding certain short-term moneymaking strategies.

Whittaker's piece, however, makes it clear that in the war for talent these kind of reputational strategies matter for recruitment and retention. Even if you have a lot of money to spend on salaries, there's always the risk that people with valuable skills are going to choose autonomy over income-maximization and go start their own business or work at some small firm that's deliberately not pursuing a profit-maximizing strategy. Thus as a firm in order to maximize profits you may have to organize yourself in such a way as to persuade some large fraction of your own employees that this isn't actually what you're doing. "Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didn’t feel like one," Whittaker writes, arguing that "under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background." More recently faced with more direct pressure from Facebook, Google's internal corporate culture has changed and this is alienating Whittaker. If that proves to be a trend and talented people either tend to leave or tend become more expensive to retain, then developing a more focused and results oriented corporate culture could be counterproductive.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.