Has anyone else noticed these days that you can’t have a competition for children and only reward the top achievers?. Apparently, handing out ribbons for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place can negatively effect the self-esteem of all the other kiddies. So everyone gets a special award for participation – even if they failed miserably or couldn’t finish.
Maybe the average age of Google employees is proof that they grew up with this type of reward system because it sure seems they want a special participation award for their efforts with Google Wave. Just consider their announcement of the product’s demise. They talk about their gee-whiz features like playback. They remind us how “jazzed” they were internally and how they “enabled” third party developers.
Too bad that “Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked” (whatever that was). That doesn’t matter. At least they tried.
No apologies for wasting people’s time. No effort to make alternative arrangements for those invested in the product. It’s “look at me, look at me – I’ve just crossed the starting line.”
Not that there aren’t those out there ready to give Google a big E for effort. Karim R. Lakhani at Harvard Business School “applaud(s) the company’s decision to pull the plug after it was clear the market wasn’t interested in Wave.”
Well sorry, I don’t buy it.
Google Wave was a launch of phenomenal proportions and that means that its a failure of phenomenal proportions. That, however, was not a technical failure. The code is still out there and Google certainly got a lot of insight that they’ll be able to apply to other products. No, this was a behavioural failure of the highest order. And the crux of the problem is not that they decide to pull Google Wave – it’s that they launched it in the first place.
Let’s face it. Google Wave was the IT industry’s noisiest beta testing program. But as Guy Kawasaki points out, it doesn’t matter when you go into beta testing – what matters is when you come out of beta testing. And there was a mountain of evidence to prove to Google that Wave would never come out of testing. Certainly there were a lot of commentators questioning whether the capabilities of Google Wave were comprehensible to average users and whether actual usage would look anything like the slick demos. And there were others, myself included, that pointed to evidence showing that the simple emergence of a new and “improved” digital collaboration tool doesn’t change collective behavior in it’s own right. Even Lars Rasmussen, the lead developer of Google Wave admitted that email, the technology he had such a problem with, emerged over the course of 40 years.
And yet the product was released to the masses. And not in a small way. As the interest in Wave exploded and user accounts expanded one has to wonder whether Google stopped to think what might happen to all those people if the product didn’t pan out. At a minimum there should have been some appreciation for the time and energy that people were investing in Wave and, therefore, investing in Google. And with that, one would think would come a sense of reciprocal responsibility. Especially since a cloud-based offering like Wave which is brought to an end-of-life must inevitably be turned off leaving those who actually built workable solutions in a lurch.
The only way I can reconcile their behaviour is to conclude that Google’s corporate culture puts a higher premium on the needs of their engineers than their responsibility to users. Launching Google Wave seems now to have been an exercise in providing the Wave development team with both public accolades and an army of unpaid testers that would help them in their future endeavours.
If, on the other hand, Google was primarily focused on their responsibility to users than there would have been significantly more design work, user analysis and testing upfront. That would have taken time. It would have been costly. It probably would have presented the development team with significant new challenges that they weren’t expecting. It may have delayed the product for months, maybe years. I could have killed the project before it saw the light of day. It would also have been the right thing to do. But apparently there seems to be a view at Google that users are part of their fail often-fail fast model of innovation.
If that’s your cup of tea – helping Google figure out what works and what doesn’t – then this obviously doesn’t rank as a matter of great concern. But if you’re someone who believes that the effort a technology company puts into preparing a product for market and it’s willingness to stick with it once released is indicative of its commitment to its customers than the demise of Google Wave should give you pause to think.
Is Google the type of company you want to rely on?
So tough luck Google. No participation award for you. Instead you should go straight to your room and think about what you did. And you can come out when you’re prepared to say sorry and can show you learnt from your mistakes.
And it better be sincere.
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