Chapter 9


During my tenure at Google, I facilitated numerous team-building sessions with groups across the organization, to help them become more effective and, ultimately, get along better. Sometimes, we would bump up against a long-standing issue, which became known as the “pink elephant” (the “elephant in the room” being the classic metaphor for an issue that everyone sees clearly but no one talks about). At Google, we colored the elephant pink to emphasize the ridiculousness of ignoring the very thing that was looming large in a team’s environment.

True to my organizational development roots, in this book, I have attempted to describe current work environments, paint the ideal future state, and share tactics and strategies to bridge the gap between them. But I, too, have danced around a big pink elephant: fear.

Nothing energizes me like inspiring a conference audience with tales from the Google culture. They sit wide-eyed; incredulous. Of course, they ask a lot of questions, especially about The Perks. Some walk away feeling envious; others, hopeless, realizing there is not a chance on the planet such concepts will fly at their organizations.

I hear their objections and the what-ifs. And not just from the managers or leaders of these organizations, but from the frontline employees, too. Behind all of their objections looms the fear. Everyone is fearful of the unknown, even as much as they fantasize about working in a wonderland like Google. What I have come to realize ...

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