Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
—Peter F. Drucker
In the 2004 Playboy interview that played havoc with its public offering process, the writer asked whether "Don't Do Evil" was truly the company motto.
"Yes, it's real," insisted Sergey.
"Is it a written code?" asked the reporter.
"Yes," said Sergey. "We have other rules too." He added, "It's not enough not to be evil. We also actively try to be good."
In 2001, Google engaged its employees in an exercise of defining the company and setting goals. The company's engineers, notoriously anti-corporate, pooh-poohed the discussion. But one engineer, Paul Buchheit, spoke the words that many were thinking. Buchheit said that all the ideas kicking around could be wrapped up in the phrase, "Don't be evil." The statement resonated and stuck.
David Friedberg, who left Google to found WeatherBill, which helps companies protect themselves from damaging weather events, said that before every acquisition, the pair asked whether it could be evil. "That was always the consideration," he said.
Bret Taylor, who became a venture capitalist after exiting Google, said that the founders' attention to the slogan made him feel part of something special. "They always made me feel much bigger than myself."
Eric Schmidt once quipped that evil was whatever Sergey Brin said it was. Google's experiences show how difficult it is to pin down the definition of evil ...