When the Race Is to the Swift

As a product, Google is remarkably speedy—turning out 6.7 million results in a mere 0.14 seconds when you type in the name “Eric Schmidt,” for instance. But as a company, even Google may not be moving fast enough.

Speaking at a technology gathering called the AllThingsD conference, Schmidt acknowledged as much on Wednesday when he told his audience that he’d attempted to team up with Facebook but had been rejected. “I screwed up,” said Schmidt, who in April became Google’s executive chairman and handed the CEO job to co-founder Larry Page.

In its account of Schmidt’s mea culpa, the Los Angeles Times noted that “investors have complained that Google is not moving quickly enough to counter the rapid rise of social networking.” Schmidt, the newspaper added, indicated that Page “would move even more quickly” than he did.

Peter Drucker sympathized with the difficulty of remaining a technology leader. “This will be quite demanding, especially considering the speed of change,” Drucker wrote in Managing in the Next Society. “It is no longer adequate to have a policy and expect it to carry you through the years.”

[EXPAND More]This is all the more true in an era marked by instability. “In turbulent times,” Drucker noted, “economic metabolisms are certain to speed up.”

Drucker went on to say that “the large company that organizes for innovation will have an advantage”—and Google, for its part, is clearly organized for innovation.

Nevertheless, the large organization—and Google, with more than 25,000 employees (compared to just 2000 at Facebook) has certainly become large—also has a major obstacle with which to contend: loss of agility. “Large organizations cannot be versatile,” Drucker warned in A Functioning Society. “A large organization is effective through its mass rather than through its agility. Fleas can jump many times their own height, but not elephants.”

What do you think: Has Google become too large to move as swiftly as it needs to? [/EXPAND]