NEW YORK (TheStreet) - When I was a struggling Ph.D. student 10 years ago or so, my advisor was good friends with a revered professor of strategy and organization from Stanford: Kathy Eisenhardt.
Although Kathy's written countless academic articles on the subject and strategy and competing in ultra-fast industries, she's not a professor in the Business School at Stanford, but in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management.
In 1998, she gave a talk at Columbia about a new book she co-authored with her doctoral student at the time. The book was calledCompeting on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos. The co-author was Shona Brown. Today, Brown is the senior vice president of business operations atGoogle(GOOG_). And with last week's news that Larry Page would talk over running Google in April from Eric Schmidt, Shona Brown's importance at Google just increased significantly.
So, who is Shona Brown? Like most people at Google, she's brilliant by normal standards. The Canadian, who majored in computer science at college, was selected as a Rhodes Scholar. She decided that she wanted to work with Kathy Eisenhardt at Stanford in the mid-1990s and graduated with a Ph.D. in strategy and organization from the Engineering School.
At Stanford, with Einsenhardt who was well-known and well-regarded by tech companies in the Valley, she got involved in many interesting side consulting engagements. Instead of opting for the academic path after graduation, she decided to pursue consulting. She went on to be a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in Toronto, where she worked with Patrick Pichette, who -- like her -- was also a Rhodes Scholar and was working at McKinsey at the time Brown joined. He would later go on to become an executive at Canada's largest phonecompany, Bell Canada.
At McKinsey, Brown began working with Google and its senior executives and founders on the ideas discussed in her book. To boil the book down, the co-authors discuss how companies, especially tech companies, seem to do better when they strike the right balance between organizational structure (clear roles/processes) and entrepreneurial dynamism (e.g., reacting to some instant news in the market or environment instead of being too bureaucratic to react).
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