Book Review: How Insider Info from Google Will Change Your #MedEd Practice

Reviewed by: Rob Cooney

Work Rules: Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live And Lead

By: Lazlo Bock

HT: Jason Wagner (@TheTechDoc) for nominating the book.

There are a multitude of books that propose “rules” for living and leading.  There are also several that explain the behind the scenes machinations of how Google “works.”  Having read books in both categories, I can say that this book combines the best of both worlds.  A word of caution, however, this book is DENSE, coming in at a whopping 365 pages.

Laslo Bock is Google’s “Director of People Operations.”  In his role, he is responsible for the “attraction, development, and retention” of “Googlers,” i.e. Google employees.  This book outlines the “rules” that his team have uncovered and employed to make Google a “Best company to work for.”

Work Rules:

  1. Give your work meaning
  2. Trust your people
  3. Hire only people who are better than you
  4. Don’t confuse development with managing performance
  5. Focus on the two tails
  6. Be frugal and generous
  7. Pay unfairly
  8. Nudge
  9. Manage the rising expectations
  10. Enjoy! And then go back to No. 1 and start again

The book dedicates a chapter (or 2 or 3) to each of the rules.   Throughout the chapters, Bock provides plenty of references to the latest in management, psychology, and even education literature.  The astute reader will notice that pulling these fields together and then applying the research has allowed Google to become a true “learning organization.”  Bock is also humble enough to provide plenty of material about his (and Google’s) failures in the discovery and application phases of the above rules.  He also makes it quite clear that while these rules are current, they are always fluid as the company grows and experiments.  Overall, the book is a testament to Google’s culture of transparency, experimentation, and adaptation.

It is also easily adaptable to medical education.  For example, one key predictor of success at Google is the “work sample test.”  How often have you taken a student who performed well during his clerkship rotation over another student with better overall grades who performed worse during the rotation?  The chapters provide plenty of examples that are easily (and cheaply) applicable to the development of medical students and trainees.

Medical Leadership also would stand to benefit by applying many of these rules to their institutions.  At a time when burnout is epidemic in medicine, Shanafelt et al. have found that leadership plays a key role in reducing burnout.  The lessons and examples provided in this book could provide our leaders with a new toolbox to begin reversing these troubling trends.

From selection, to development, and ultimately, to retaining the best and brightest talent, Bock has nicely explained his (and thus, Google’s) approach.  While a long read, the book is well worth the time to read, digest, and apply.