What Would Google Do?

I just finished a book by Jeff Jarvis titled What Would Google Do? which I spotted at the San Diego airport the other day. The title intrigued me so I picked up a copy.google

Jarvis is a journalist and internet marketing expert who almost single-handedly brought down Dell Computer a few years ago with his blog. Since then, he’s become an expert on things geeky and in this book he illuminates the worldview of today’s “Google Generation” and outlines 40 principles which have led to Google’s unprecedented success. Here are just a few of them:

  • Give the people control.
  • Do what you do best and link to the rest (think distributed.)
  • If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found. “New publicness.”
  • Elegant organization.
  • A new economy: small is the new big.
  • Atoms are a drag (get rid of “stuff.”)
  • Free is a business model.
  • Decide what business you’re in.
  • Middlemen are doomed.
  • There is an inverse relationships between control and trust.
  • Listen.
  • Make mistakes well.
  • Life is a beta.
  • Be honest, transparent.
  • Collaborate.
  • Don’t be evil.
  • Answers are instantaneous
  • Simplify, simplify.
  • Get out of the way.

Jarvis applies these principles in a “what if” kind of way to all sorts of businesses from media companies to the airline industry. His last chapter is titled “Exceptions” and there are two: God and Apple (computers). In his view religion can’t be Googlejuiced and neither can Steve Jobs who does things pretty much his own way, whether we like it or not. Jarvis doesn’t really elaborate on why religion is exempt but I’m assuming it’s because God thinks he’s Steve Jobs.

But maybe the church could stand a little Googlethink. As I go down Jarvis’ list, I think there are many Google principles which could help the church become more effective.

Certainly our unwillingness as a church to be transparent, to listen better, to “do no evil” and to simplify has driven many young people away from the church. Some have left completely; others have started “emergent” churches which perhaps have been Googlejuiced a little too much. Jarvis believes that companies and organizations willing to change quickly will survive. The rest will simply go away and not be heard from again.

I’m working on a new book concerning the future of youth ministry which hopefully will be published soon. (Jarvis, by the way, predicts that books are soon going to become obsolete as the world becomes more Google-ized.) This book has definitely given me some food for thought. Maybe there are some ways we can do church (and youth ministry) in a Googley way without doing violence to the Gospel. If you have any ideas on that, fire away.

Jarvis’ book has also encouraged me to blog more, which I really haven’t done (much) before. I don’t know if anyone actually reads these things but what the heck, you never know.

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