The Maze Is in the Mouse



  • Author: Praveen Seshadri
  • Full Title: The Maze Is in the Mouse
  • Document Note: The author reflects on how Google, once a great company, has lost its way due to lack of self-awareness and an organizational lack of desire to change anything. There is a collective delusion among Googlers that the company is exceptional and it is suggested that the company should lead with a commitment to their mission, winnow layers of middle management, treat employees as individuals, encourage teams to make and keep promises to customers, and strive to make the world a better place.
  • URL: the-maze-is-in-the-mouse-980c57cfd61a


  • As Deepak Malhotra put it in his excellent business fable, at some point the problem is no longer that the mouse is in a maze. The problem is that “the maze is in the mouse”. (View Highlight)
  • very few Googlers come into work thinking they serve a customer or user. They usually serve some process (“I’m responsible for reviewing privacy design”) or some technology ( (View Highlight)
  • in practice the systems and processes are intentionally designed to “respect risk”. Risk mitigation trumps everything else. This makes sense if everything is going wonderfully and the most important thing is to avoid rocking the boat and keep sailing on the rising tide of ads revenue. In such a world, potential risk lies everywhere you look (View Highlight)
  • In an inclusive culture (good —it doesn’t withhold information and opportunity) with very distributed ownership (bad), you rapidly get to needing approval from many people before any decision can be made (View Highlight)
  • it is a soft peacetime culture where nothing is worth fighting for. The people who are inclined to fight on behalf of customers or new ideas or creativity soon learn the downside of doing so. By definition, there is a disincentive to go above and beyond, and your peers and managers will look askance if you try to. (View Highlight)
  • although every individual is well intentioned, the system has its own dynamic. And in this system, nothing is worth fighting for. (View Highlight)
  • Within Google, there is a collective delusion that the company is exceptional. And as is the case in all such delusions, the deluded ones are just mortals standing on the shoulders of the truly exceptional people who went before them and created an environment of wild success. Eventually, the exceptional environment starts to fade, but the lingering delusion has abolished humility among the mere mortals who remain. (View Highlight)
  • The problem and negative impact lies in the manager ranks and intensifies at the director level and higher. Hiring interviews at this level are entirely subjective and the quality of the interviewers matters. (View Highlight)
  • The flip side of hiring is talent management and retention. From what I saw at Google Cloud, they could do a lot better identifying and nurturing talent, moving talent to the best fit roles, and overall optimizing the people already in the company. Instead, the pattern seems to be wait till someone is unhappy and leaves, then just open a req to replace them. Minimal effort to steer people to alternative roles and maximize talent. Such a waste. (View Highlight)
  • Google can no longer seek success by avoiding risk. The path forward has to start with culture change and that has to start at the very top. (View Highlight)
  • Define ambitious causes that you will collectively fight for. (View Highlight)
  • The best people want to make a difference. Motivated people are capable of immense and uniquely valuable contributions in the right circumstances. (View Highlight)
  • Expect and incentivize each employee to do their unique best, rather than restrict them to the low-bar average expectation for their level (View Highlight)