The Google Rule… Really?!?

In the “what exactly where they thinking when they wrote that?” category, an MIT researcher has opined in the Harvard Business Review blogs (both normally considered to be modestly respectable sources) that we should practice “the Google rule”. Whenever we meet someone for the first time, we should first see what we can find out about them on Google. According to Michael Schrage (who a quick Google search reveals to redundantly be one of the most innovative thought leaders on innovation, as well as the author of the oxymoronically titled book “Serious Play”), people will appreciate the effort that you have made to get to know them, and to insert an appropriate nugget of information about them into the conversation.

Speaking personally, this would give me the raving heebie-jeebies (a quick Google of this phrase will define it as ‘a feeling of minor fright, anxiety, nervousness or apprehension’, for those who are unfamiliar with it). I will concede the fact that I Google well (if that’s the word I want to use; I’m not sure at this point). Type in ‘Mark Mullaly’, and the after the first few letters of my name, Google will helpfully prompt you with the rest of it. The resulting search produces 285,000 responses (in something less than ¼ of a second) and it takes until the fourth page of results until you find an entry that has nothing to do with me (there being another Mark Mullaly that plays football – the round-balled kind – for the Blackhall Gaels in Ireland). On page 6 of the results, we find a similarly named real estate agent in Australia. I also know of a few others.

On the other hand, I have a very dear friend of mine who doesn’t Google very well at all. Which should be interpreted as meaning that, according to Google, she doesn’t exist. She did at one time, in that there used to be a very embarrassing article that she wrote for her undergrad newsletter about astrophysics. But it’s gone now. I was fortunately able to use it to poke fun at her once, but as of today Google is blissfully unaware that she walks the planet.

One has to wonder at the power of that, though. A wiser person than I once said that “In the future, status will be measured by how difficult we are to get ahold of.” One could argue that a reasonable corollary would be “… and how difficult we are to Google.”

Today, I’m not that person. I’m difficult to reach on a cell phone (because about 10 people in the world have the number) but I’m incredibly easy to find information about through Google. But if you meet with me next week, and drop a line about that amazing goal I scored on the free kick last weekend, I’m going to look at you like you’ve got three heads. Or none at all. Consider the fact that I’ve got a unique name; what happens when your meeting is with John Smith?

In short, if you want to know something about me, I’ll be flattered if you ask. I’m likely to be offended if you pretend that you know.

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