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- Google has been struggling with internal and external criticism across the last several years on a variety of issues, from lacking diversity in its workforce to its work in China.
- One major source of those issues is the company’s acceptance of "aberrant geniuses," according to former CEO Eric Schmidt. "You need these aberrant geniuses because they’re the ones that drive, in most cases, the product excellence," he told Wired in a recent piece.
- One of the "aberrant geniuses" named is former Android head Andy Rubin, who left Google in 2014 with a $90 million exit package after being accused of coercing a coworker to perform oral sex.
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Google has been having a rough few years.
Last June, its big government contract for Project Maven was scrapped when company executives gave in to internal criticism. Then, in November, employees walked out in protest over claims of sexual misconduct leveled at top executives. Finally, in July of this year, after employees pushed back against a censored version of Google Search being developed for China, that project was revealed as canceled as well.
As it turns out, all of those issues were rooted in Google’s culture, as reported in a massive new investigation by Wired.
Embracing ‘aberrant geniuses’
The issue with Google’s culture is most succinctly summarized in a quote from former Google CEO and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt.
"You need these aberrant geniuses because they’re the ones that drive, in most cases, the product excellence," Schmidt told Wired in an interview earlier this year.
One of the "aberrant geniuses" named in the piece is former Android head Andy Rubin, who left Google in 2014 with a $90 million exit package after being accused of coercing a coworker to perform oral sex.
The products in reference here are some of Google’s best — products used by billions of people around the world, like Gmail and Google Maps and Google Translate. They’re also tremendously important pieces of Google’s business.
And that’s why Schmidt’s statement about "aberrant geniuses" being allowed more rope than other employees is so important: It’s a cultural standard that allows executives to value certain employees so much that, even after being accused of sexual misconduct — and that accusation being considered credible by Google after an investigation — the accused person leaves with a massive bonus and no repercussions.
Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Matt Weinberger/Business Insider
Political arguments divide the company
The same cultural standard within Google that encourages frank, open dissent — when paired with Google’s famously open internal communications — has also pushed employees into political arguments that have divided the company.
Several conservative former Google employees are suing the company, accusing Google of censoring their political speech and firing them, and one has become a talking point on Fox News. Engineer Kevin Cernekee is one of those former employees who says he was fired from Google due to what he alleges was anti-conservative bias.
Based on Cernekee’s allegations, President Trump has begun targeting Google and its CEO, Sundar Pichai, in recent weeks. Trump said Pichai is being watched "very closely," and accused the CEO of grovelling for favor from Trump in a prior meeting.
But that’s far from the end of Google’s recent problems — check out the full piece in Wired right here for a thorough breakdown of the company’s problematic last few years.
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