Friday, January 30, 2009

What Detroit Can Learn From Google

Carmakers need to let go of their musty business models and start thinking like 21st century companies—like Google.

Google listens to us and trusts us when it releases unfinished products as "betas" so we can tell them what to do next. That's the approach behind Google News, Gmail, and the new Chrome browser. The company also lets us tailor searches so we turn up only images or book excerpts. And Google pays attention to us by using our clicks and links to determine rank in search results. The more people who connect to a blog post on the best recipe for lamb tagine, the more prominent Google will make that Web site when people hunt for dinner ideas.

Google wants us involved in the creative process; Detroit doesn't. Richard Florida, author of Who's Your City?, said Detroit's car companies were "destroyed" by "a management mind set that said, 'We know it all, we don't need anyone other's ideas, and we can do anything we want with our companies.' "

~Jeff Jarvis in Business Week

Related: "What Detroit Can Learn from Bangalore," from Reason Magazine, June 2006


At 1/30/2009 3:23 PM, Blogger Highgamma said...

I'm always surprised at how dumb people think the managers of car companies are. They had a simple and intractable problem -- higher labor costs and increased competition. The political clout of the UAW made it impossible to renegotiate their contracts, so they built the highest margin cars that they could so they could "carry" the extra labor costs - gas-guzzling SUVs. This was a rational decision made because they were between a rock and a hard place. It slowed down the decline but could not halt it and here we are.

At 1/30/2009 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Google listens to us and trusts us when it releases unfinished products as "betas" so we can tell them what to do next."

In the real world, these are known as auto 'recalls'. And do I really want to buy an 'unfinished' auto. I can just hear the salesmen " buy it today and I'll send you a coupon for the brake kit".

At 1/30/2009 4:39 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Gee! I can't wait to see Detroit's version of the Google Bomb...:-)

At 1/30/2009 6:38 PM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

It's really quite more simple than all of that: how may Federal agencies related to their product does Google have to answer to... and how many does Detroit?

Call it the Federal Barrier Index... the higher the number, the less chance to offer unfinished products to the public.

At 1/30/2009 10:30 PM, Blogger David Foster said...

Bad software in a Google beta is unlikely to kill anybody. There are any number of bad things in a car that can kill people.

Replication of software is relatively trivial--to replicate desktop software, you just duplicate the CD or make the software downloadable; for software that lives on a server, you don't even have to do that. Replication of cars involves things like stamping dies and careful work design for assembly processes.

At 1/31/2009 5:37 AM, Blogger Thomas Coolberth said...

Jeff Jarvis has spent a little bit too much time behind a keyboard. It seems like it in now the only reality that he knows. Has he ever been to a factory in his lifetime?

There is one thing that Detroit could do to emulate Google: Pull 100% of your ads from the Dinosaur Media like Newsweek and the NY Times/ Nobody reads that crap any more.

At 1/31/2009 10:37 AM, Blogger David Foster said...

"Google wants us involved in the creative process; Detroit doesn't"...what in the world does this actually mean? The "involvement in the creative process" by Google users means something like clicking on a preferred recipe for lamb tagine and letting the search engine do popularity counts. How is this different from asking prospective customers whether they would prefer small tailfins or large tailfins?...a kind of market research that Detroit has been doing since the 1930s.

If you want a serious example of user involvement in the creative process, look at Netflix and their contest for the development of an improved recommendation algorithm.

At 2/01/2009 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GM to invest Democrat handout in Brazil:

SAO PAULO -- General Motors plans to invest $1 billion in Brazil to avoid the kind of problems the U.S. automaker is facing in its home market, said the beleaguered car maker.

According to the president of GM Brazil-Mercosur, Jaime Ardila, the funding will come from the package of financial aid that the manufacturer will receive from the U.S. government and will be used to "complete the renovation of the line of products up to 2012."

"It wouldn't be logical to withdraw the investment from where we're growing, and our goal is to protect investments in emerging markets," he said in a statement published by the business daily Gazeta Mercantil.

This should thrill Obahh-ahh-ma supporters.

At 2/11/2009 5:25 PM, Blogger windbourne said...

What is needed is to break up any of the detroit automakers that want our cash. Seriously. The problem with the automakers (AND Banks) is bad management.
OTH, if we give these companies money AND then break them up into smaller companies, they can take off in different directions with multiple new management.


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