Musing on Google’s Power Searching Course and marketing

Today I completed Google’s Power Searching Course. Do I know any more about search than I did ten days ago? Yes. Capitalization makes no difference but word order does. You can narrow a search by date. Google Earth has a lot more detail than I remember from previous visits. Also, I learned dozens of other little tricks that I’ll probably forget if I don’t put them to use in the next few days.

Previously I approached Google searches much like looking something up in an encyclopedia or dictionary. I’d check the term and leave it at that. After the course, I treat search more as an iterative process. A pre-search can inform the real search. Or after the first search, I can add to the query to zoom in on what I’m after. Search has become a process, not an event.

I spent three or four hours taking the course. Was this a good investment of my time? For me, yes. Research is a large part of my work, so I’ll be applying and building on what I’ve learned about search for years to come.

More, importantly for me, the Google course inspired me to contemplate how corporations can use co-learning to create more loyal customers.

Course design

The six 50-minute classes progress from simple searches to complex. Each class consists of four to six lessons. A lesson includes a video of Dan explaining a concept and an activity to practice and test understanding. There’s a midterm exam, a final, and an opportunity to ask and answer questions in two massive Google+ sessions.

Exemplary marketing

Coco Chanel said, “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.” The same is true in marketing.

The Google course is obviously marketing — they are teaching us to make better use of their product.

Moderator Dan’s low-key approach and the lack of flashy graphics makes the course feel authentic.

Instructor Dan Russell is never condescending. He doesn’t come across as a know-it-all. Dan’s just trying to help us out. He’s much more believable than an actor.

Dan is a very savvy subject matter expert. His LinkedIn profile shows that he began his career at Xerox PARC while finishing his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Rochester. He managed User Experience Research for Apple before going to work for Steve Jobs as head of Apple’s Knowledge Management Technologies Lab. He returned to PARC before becoming a Senior Research Science at IBM’s Almaden Research Center. Dan has been at Google for seven years and lists his job as “Uber Tech Lead.”

I complete the course with even more respect for Google. The depth of their search capability is amazing.

Wisely, Google is issuing certificates of completion. I wonder how often these are going to appear on job seeker’s resumes.

Google is following the prime marketing directive: create and keep the customer.

Google recognizes it ain’t over til it’s over. Alumni are encouraged to subscribe to Google’s blog and updates. Google recognizes the Lifetime Value of a Customer.

This has to be one of the least expensive marketing campaigns ever devised. The only tools required are a video cam and the free Google suite of applications. Other out-of-pocket costs are employee time to design and create the course, and a little more time tending the Google+ sessions and answering questions.

Everything is connected to everything else

The big lesson of the 21st century thus far is that everything is connected to everything else. It’s all one big network, folks.

No corporation is an island. (Everything’s a node.) A corporation and its connections form an extended enterprise.


For Us to prosper, we have to be on the same wave length as our connections in the extended enterprise. Since the environment of our enterprise is forever changing and learning is the way we adapt to change, we all need to be learning together. Otherwise, someone will be falling behind, and our combined performance will suffer.

I’m going to call learning with other players in the extended enterprise co-learning. If I were an instructional designer in a moribund training department, I’d polish up my resume and head over to marketing. Co-learning can differentiate services, increase product usage, strengthen customer relationships, and reduce the cost of hand-holding. It’s cheaper and more useful than advertising.

Were I that instructional designer, I’d tweak what Google did with the Power Searching Course. Almost all of our interaction was top-down delivery by Dan:

The Hangouts on Google+ were serial: I answer the question, you answer the question, hundreds of other people answer the same question. There’s no interaction and no camaraderie. Perhaps a future iteration of the course could encourage competition among ad hoc teams. Or at least a leader board that awards the most sophisticated search strategies:

The more connections, the better.






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