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Troikas

By Matthew Yglesias on January 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm

"Troikas"

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Ken Auletta on Google:

Was Eric Schmidt pushed or did he jump? Both. According to close advisors, the Google C.E.O. was upset a year ago when co-founder Larry Page sided with his founding partner, Sergey Brin, to withdraw censored searches from China. Schmidt did not hide his belief that Google should stay in the world’s largest consumer marketplace. It was an indication of the nature of the relationship Schmidt had with the founders that he—as Brian Cashman of the Yankees did this week—acknowledged that the decision was made above his head. He often joked that he provided “adult supervision,” and was never shy about interrupting the founders at meetings to crystallize a point. In the eleven interviews I conducted with him for my book on Google, he freely told anecdotes about the founders, sometimes making gentle fun of them, never seeming to look over his shoulder. Yet he always made clear that they were “geniuses” and he, in effect, was their manager. After a bumpy first couple of years after he joined Google as C.E.O. in 2001, they had developed a remarkable relationship. But also a weird one. How many successful organizations have a troika making decisions?

I guess not that many, but maybe more should. After all, are there are lot of organizations out there that are more successful than Google? Is the one CEO supervised by a large and diffuse Board of Directors model really such a stunning success? There doesn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong with the troika idea other than that it’s unusual. Admittedly in ancient Rome this form of government mostly led to civil wars, but under Roman conditions just about everything seemed to lead to civil wars, right?

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