Could Slime Mold be the ‘Hidden Force’ behind Google’s recent troubles
Yesterday we brought you news of a Google-backed startup that was going through its second round of worker layoffs in a month. It marks just the latest episode in a rough few months for big tech companies which have seen profits and share prices plummet and tech workers who’ve lost their jobs as a result. Now there could be many reasons behind this such as a rough macro environment or overenthusiastic forecasts of growth. An internal Google document has postulated that it could be because of something different, however: slime mold.
A longtime employee at Google called Alex Komoroske has compared the company to slime mold in a presentation called “Why everything is so darn hard at this company.” The main thesis of the presentation is that Google’s massive size and bottom-up structure have caused progress to slow considerably at the company. He wrote:
“Google is basically a slime mold […] This is a fundamental part of our culture, and is reinforced by our hiring and promotion processes […] Thriving in ambiguity. Rewarding independence and initiative.”
Interestingly, this comparison to slime mold isn’t all bad for Komoroske as he believes slime mold can do amazing things. The crucial part of his argument, however, links how large Google has grown to how slowly things now move because of it.
On the face of it, these are rather common concerns that often come up when organizations reach certain sizes. Bureaucracy will always increase the larger a company gets, which will inevitably lead to operations slowing down somewhat. It is something that has come up at Google before too. In 2018, The New York Times reported that more than a dozen vice presidents at the company sent an email to the CEO warning him that the company was experiencing growing pains, which included problems in coordinating technical decisions.
Getting back to Komoroske though, it isn’t clear when he produced his presentation, but he has made a version of it available on his blog. He no longer works at Google having left in 2021 but we can’t confirm whether he left because he compared the company to Slime Mold or not.
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