I read with interest the restructuring announcements from Google this week, as they rebrand the parent company into Alphabet, building out the letters with innovative products and business models - starting with “G” for Google, which remains a wholly-owned subsidiary. It’s a bold move for a company that doesn’t want to be conventional.
This got me thinking about our own personal branding efforts and how we can apply Google's bold lessons to our own career paths.
1. Your past is only part of your story
Google is known for search and related properties, but the management team saw that strong association as a strength of Google (the products) and a limitation to Google (the company). Making that same distinction between what you do and who you are and want to be, is extremely useful. Early in your career were you known as the person who organized events, the person who could calm agitated customers, or the person who could help someone with their Excel questions? Although those things are useful and might still be part of your portfolio, they are not all that you are, nor do they limit you in the future. You can delegate (as Sergey and Larry did with Sundar taking over Google or Susan running YouTube), train and coach others, and step away from what you were great at in the past, to develop new capabilities. Reinvention isn’t just possible, it’s required, to move forward.
2. Leave room for more
Google is still a huge part of their portfolio, naturally, but with the rebranding effort, they made room for other companies, sub-brands, and initiatives to build out the portfolio. If G is for Google, they literally have left room for 25 other multi-billion dollar ideas. If you thought about what you do as just one letter in your alphabet, how could that shift your thinking? How could you play bigger thinking that your career to date has just been one chapter (or the prologue) of a larger story? No one else knows what you are capable of, maybe not even yourself, unless you apply yourself to this line of thinking.
3. Good times are a great time for change
You have heard the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I don’t think anyone would say Google’s business model was broken. Yet, they felt urgency and took action to change when things are going well. Some analysts have commented that most companies don’t announce a “restructuring” when things are going well, their stock is flying and their market cap is pointing heaven-wards. Usually, those words are reserved for companies that are struggling and require massive surgery and intervention to stay viable. It is difficult to contemplate a change, especially a big one, when things are going well, but that might be exactly when you need to make a change. Perhaps it is time to retire the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” advice, and rather strive to be a person who is willing to give up good ideas in favor of great ones!