What the Military Can Learn from Google
On one level, Google's mission and the military's mission are the same: organize all the world's data.
According to a recent article in Baseline magazine (disclaimer: eWEEK and Baseline are both owned by Ziff Davis), the world's most powerful army can learn a lot from the world's most powerful search engine. Columnist Paul Strassman, who has worked as a senior information manager for multiple government agencies, including the DOD, says Google's skill at rapidly deploying prefabricated data centers around the world can and should be ported to the military.
According to Strassman, the military is hip to the idea of Google-like flexibility, though plans to incorporate lessons from the search giant are still on the drawing board (or PowerPoint).
Military buffs may recall that the Army is in the midst of a transformation to being a lighter, quicker, more efficient organization. And the military has proven that it can move quickly with technology when it gets out of its own way. Witness Steve Roth's CoMotion application, which went from blueprint to deployment in three months.
But the military can also get bogged down by overanalyzing, as anyone familiar with the Millennium Challenge 2002 can tell you. In the first iteration of those war games, retired General Paul van Riper, roleplaying a Middle East terrorist nation, quickly bested the U.S. armed forces by using low-tech (but ingenious) tactics.
According to the Baseline article, Google-like rapid access to information might be just what's needed in a war zone, where reports from the field too often pile up unread. The military equivalent of Googling your competition would be for a field officer to spend a few seconds typing a query into a mobile device to get the latest intelligence about a hostile village before the troops move in. "It's Google skinned down into the hands of a Marine," Strassman said.
Beyond technology, the military may also be able to take a page from how Google manages employees. Specifically, the military might read up on Google's employee management practices. Instead of relying on complex forms to track what employees are doing, Google managers simply ask them to write in longhand e-mails. All that info gets dumped into a searchable database, and managers search for "accidental cross-pollination" of ideas and trends.
One last note: Google's also pretty good at protecting its private data from prying eyes. The military? Not so much.