Google has a landing page about Google's culture but how did Google's culture come about? Was it the employees, founders, technology or something else?
Matt Cutts of Google, one of Google's first 100 employees and still with the company, mentioned the moments that he felt help make up the company's culture. He posted them in a Hacker News thread and I wanted to dig them out of the thread for all to see (since it is public anyway).
Matt explained there were certain moments in time that came upon Google where the action/response Google had to those moments helped make up the company's culture. What were those moments?
- The first DMCA request we got, from the Church of Scientology
- The day that we turned on Netscape. It turns out we didn't have enough server capacity, so we turned down Google so that we could serve the traffic from Netscape.
- When the Department of Justice tried to subpoena two months worth of all user queries
- When John Battelle grilled Eric Schmidt on stage at a Web 2.0 conference and Eric declared "We would never trap user data."
Matt explained those four moments were instrumental in helping mold Google's culture. Those moments listed above were all forced upon Google from external sources.
All of those situations were thrust on us from the outside, and someone had to make a call. I think those kinds of decisions are critical culture-defining moments.
The decisions a company makes when everything is fine--or when you have plenty of time to plan--can set some of the company's culture. But to me, how your organization responds to a crisis is one of the best indicators of its culture.
Forum discussion at Hacker News.