Today, Larry Page takes over as CEO of Google. By all accounts, the company is at a critical juncture. As Facebook usurps more eyeballs and ad dollars, Google faces increased scrutiny from antitrust probes, privacy watchdogs and regulators. All things considered, the 38-year-old has investors worried. No one questions his technical brilliance--he's responsible for many of Google's most successful products. But publicly, he comes off as cagey, sometimes arrogant, and his ambitious plans (scanning all the world's books) occasionally backfire. As Wired's Steven Levy puts it, Page is "the quirkiest person to ever run a $30 billion company." Here are five things Page should bone up on, according to his critics:
- Making Eye Contact with People If Google doesn't want to be seen as a robotic, unfeeling company, it's CEO should probably address people to their faces. According the New Yorker's Ken Auletta (author of Googled), Page is famous for staring down into his Android phone during business dealings.
- Improving Public Speaking Skills If Mark Zuckerberg can do it, so can you. Clearly there's room for improvement. Over at All Things D, John Paczkowski reviews Page's commencement speech at the University of Michigan. "Page looks and, yes, sounds like he'd be more comfortable--and perhaps, better off--delivering the commencement address via hand-puppet. How will he handle a press roundtable? A keynote? How will he articulate Google’s motives at a regulatory hearing?"
- Getting Comfortable With the Press As CEO, Page will be the public face of Google and he'll need to argue forcefully on behalf of its policies and state goals. But, as James Temple at the San Francisco Chronicle notes, "Page has a deep aversion to dealing with the news media and lacks the grace and polish that tend to come standard in Fortune 500 CEOs." If he doesn't open himself up to the press, it will do little to abate the growing fears that Google is a malevolent kind of Big Brother with little regard of individual's privacy.
- Showing Some Humility Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything, is deeply pessimistic about Page's ability to convey an understanding of privacy and antitrust concerns. "I think that with Larry Page taking over Google, it's going to be more arrogance and more idealism, at the very moment when he should be humble and realistic, in order to get through these very real regulatory pressures."
- Thinking About Intangibles "He will have to rid himself of a proclivity most engineers have: they are really bad at things they can’t measure," writes Ken Auletta, "Like fears about Google's size, and privacy and copyright and how to deal with governments that are weak at measurement but rife with paranoia.”