Book Review : Work Rules by Laszlo Bock

I have read numerous of books, especially lately, but the problem with reading a lot of books is that I tend to forget what was the book really about. To solve that problem, I decided to kick-start this habit of writing a review for every book that I read. And by publishing it in this blog, I hope the information can be useful for those who share the same affection to books.


Lately, I have developed an interest in people, human capital, and how they behave in an organization. I found myself spending hours and hours reading up the topic on the internet, and I was craving for more. A good friend of mine was kind enough to buy me a present, a book by Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google. I have always held Google highly, as a company. I admired their vision, their commitment and the way they get things done. And I think it is just wonderful now that I can get the insights from the Google People Operations SVP himself.


“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

We may or may not understand how a company culture affect the employees within that organization. Especially in Google. If we only see merely with our bare eyes, Google’s culture from the surface looks a lot of FUN, I’m talking about the bean bags, slides, free meal, and all those perks you are entitled as a Googler. But, those FUN does not really portray Google’s culture as a whole.


Laszlo Bock, and Google, believe in a mission that matters. Remember all those company’s vision and mission which real intention is only to please its shareholders? Company’s ambition to become the leader in certain industry, or a more cliché mission to serve the customers, to add value. Bock pointed out the problem with this kind of mission is that it does not necessarily give a meaning to the work an employee does. What’s so great about maximizing the profit of an IT company anyway? Google’s mission, in contrast to other corporate mission statements, holds a higher value and a noble-cause (at least that’s what most people believe).


Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

There are few cornerstones that shapes Google cultures, the first and foremost, is their mission. And it is amazing to see how far this mission can affect the quality of work and determination of employee–because they believe what they are doing does matter.


“Default to Open”

In line with their mission, Google believe in disseminating information throughout the organization. Google believes in transparency. I personally think this is one important aspect to have in any organization, it helps to minimize the risk of someone feeling left out and clueless of what is really going on inside the organization they are contributing to.

Silo-mentality is one of the most common dysfunction companies are facing nowadays, especially in a large organization where division of labor is so heavily-implemented even into the smallest tasks possible. It is challenging to keep everyone updated of what is going on within an organization across different teams. But, as challenging as it is, there is more benefits than harm in sharing information across different units. After all, a synergy of forces is more impactful than a single force.


Can We Imitate Google?

That is the question that I have in mind too. Google might be blessed with some of the best talents available in the world, making their community innovative, and more receptive to ideas. Some companies, however, does not have the privilege of resources to apply what Google has developed so far in their People Operations.


Google’s success in managing its people is not by accident. The way Google manage its people, is by conducting experiment after experiment, to see what works and what does not. When you have an organization filled with engineers, you need to have a more structured approach in convincing people. That is why experiments and data-driven decisions are the backbone of Google’s innovation in its people management. And also, not to mention that by conducting research and experiments within your organization, you will get a better understanding of how things are and what decision to take to bring betterment to your organization. It seems like a simple approach, and I believe a lot of other companies have the same data-driven approach too (hopefully, they do), but given the size of Google as a company, it is amazing how they can pull it off successfully. People tend to see innovation slows down as the size of the company grows bigger, but this does not seem to apply to Google.


Overall, “Work Rules” has successfully amazed me with the optimistic tone it has set since the very beginning of the book. Reading the book made me believe that people really is the most important asset to an organization, and if that asset is managed well, good things will come. Don’t take my words for it, go read the book, and see if you share the same perspective as I do.

So, where are you now?

So it’s been 7 months since I moved back to Indonesia. Life has been steady, not much ups and downs. It’s getting boring. I’m getting used to living life in Jakarta. The traffic jams, the unorganized masses, chaos in every public transportation system (thanks God there’s Gojek). But well, it’s survival of the fittest here in the jungle of Jakarta.


Before moving back to Indonesia, I had dreams about how would I live my life in Indonesia. Admittedly, I have not been living up to my expectations. I have not volunteered to any single events, I have not visited as many events as I would like to, I have not read as many books as I’d planned to. I have been caught up with this whole routine of waking up in the morning, fighting the urge to sleep in for another 5 minutes (I often lose). Getting up to the same train, same route, same time. Nobody told me that working-life involves great amount of boredom.


This might be the signal to try something new, something that thrills me. I need to get out of this routine and find new challenge. It is, after all, the right time to be a little adventurous.


At the end of the day, we are all a little young and a little lost, aren’t we?

Kami Prihatin

Presiden Joko Widodo melakukan kunjungan luar negeri yang pertamanya di tahun 2015, hanya selang beberapa hari setelah berakhirnya 100 hari pertama Kabinet Kerja. Malaysia mendapatkan kehormatan sebagai destinasi pertama adalah sahabat lama, negeri tetangga yang sering berada di love and hate relationship dengan negara kita. Sebuah negara yang jumlah Warga Negara Indonesia-nya lima kali lipat lebih banyak dibanding jumlah penduduk Jakarta Pusat. Negara penyumbang > 1.611 kasus permasalahan TKI yang meliputi kasus pelecehan seksual, KDRT, human trafficking, kekerasan dan pelbagai masalah lainnya.


Sebuah kesempatan yang sangat baik bagi masyarakat Indonesia yang berada di Malaysia untuk bertemu dengan Presiden barunya, Presiden yang menjanjikan revolusi di pelbagai bidang. Presiden yang membawakan harapan akan perubahan yang nyata. Kesempatan ini mungkin hanya terjadi satu periode sekali, maybe a few times if you’re lucky. Kesempatan untuk menyampaikan aspirasi secara langsung, tanpa perantara, kepada Presiden RI adalah sebuah kesempatan untuk berkontribusi dan mengambil andil dalam membentuk perubahan yang ia janjikan.


Namun, betapa kecewanya saya secara pribadi melihat kesempatan itu tidak dimanfaatkan dengan optimal oleh beberapa golongan. Contohnya seperti BP KNPI Malaysia, yang walaupun sempat melayangkan beberapa keprihatinannya mengenai beberapa isu-isu strategis mengenai Budi Gunawan maupun nasib TKI di perantauan. Tapi sayangnya, tidak ada satupun isu itu diangkat oleh BP KNPI Malaysia ketika pertemuan dengan Presiden Joko Widodo berlangsung. To be fair, salah satu poin yang diangkat adalah mengenai TKI, yaitu mengenai permasalah pernikahan tanpa dokumen bagi TKI di Malaysia. Tapi isu itu pun terlihat begitu minor apabila dibanding dengan permasalahan TKI yang lain seperti kekerasan, human trafficking, maupun pendidikan bagi anak TKI maupun TKI itu sendiri. Walaupun begitu, sebuah kredit harus diberikan kepada BP KNPI Malaysia atas kepedulian dan “keberhasilannya” dalam mengidentifikasi masalah krusial bagi TKI di Malaysia.


Hingga tulisan ini dibuat, belum ada informasi publik yang tersedia mengenai apa yang disampaikan oleh Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia se-Malaysia (PPIM), organisasi yang mewakili kurang lebih 11.000 suara mahasiswa Indonesia di Malaysia. Senada dengan BP KNPI Malaysia, PPIM pun terhitung cukup sering melayangkan keprihatinannya mengenai isu-isu strategis yang sedang berlangsung di dalam negeri maupun di Malaysia sendiri. Semoga ada lantunan aspirasi yang menyuarakan isu-isu yang dapat menyadarkan Presiden Joko Widodo bahwa masih banyak pekerjaan rumah yang mesti ia dan seluruh timnya rampungkan.


Hingga suara itu terdengar, kita hanya bisa berdoa. Begitu pula jutaan TKI kita di Malaysia. Mereka berdoa.




A concerned citizen

Onto The Next Journey

Bergerak adalah kodrat manusia, senantiasa menuju ke arah yang baru. Perubahan, adalah sebuah konsekuensi dari pergerakan tersebut.

Hidup terdiri dari rangkaian kejadian-kejadian, menentukan nasib. Hari ini, satu rangkaian kejadian telah berhasil dilalui. Sepanjang perjalanan, aku mendapatkan kawan, sahabat, keluarga dan cinta.

Hari ini, aku bergerak menjauh dari sebuah keluarga.

Aku pergi.

Mendaki gunung yang lebih tinggi.

Untuk menjadi bagian dari sesuatu yang lebih besar.

I’ll see you on top.

On Being Grateful

Count your blessings, they said.

Looking back, I have been blessed with a lot of happiness. Surrounded by people who care, having access to free education, opportunity to start my career as soon as I graduate. And I don’t think I have been grateful enough.

It is the basic nature of human, to always seek out for more, wanting to have more, sometimes beyond our own capability. Finding contentment is never easy.

Mr. Arwin Rasyid, CEO of CIMB Niaga, once told me that to have an ambition is one thing, and to be an ambitious man is another thing. There is a fine line between having an ambition and being ambitious. Being ambitious, he further explained, is dangerous as one might never be satisfied with what one has. An insatiable hunger for success, for victory, will only lead us to unfulfilled and colorless life.

The ability to be grateful is underrated. It is arguably one of the most important traits one should possess in order to live a peaceful life.

On Moving Back to Indonesia

I have been living in Indonesia for most of my life, I was born, nurtured, grown up in a place that I recognized as a home. There are countless problems and reasons to hate living in the country, but I learned to live with it. I learned to embrace the imperfections the nation possesses.

Four years ago, I was given a chance to study in Malaysia on a scholarship by CIMB Foundation. That was my first overseas exposure. I was not surprised to see that Malaysia is doing pretty much better than Indonesia, in a lot of aspects. For example, better public transportation, train system, considerably faster escalator, faster pedestrians, and of course, widely-available and reasonably fast internet connection. I enjoyed it, I was glad for not having to live with all the “helter-skelter” that occur on daily basis in some of Indonesia’s major cities. Back in 2010, riding economic-class train in Indonesia during rush hour was awful.

But then I realized that I took it for granted. Now that I have to re-adapt myself to Indonesia, I found myself more of a grouch. I complained about how the pedestrian moves in slow-mo, I fuss about how the escalator is moving at unacceptable speed and the fact that people do not give space for the escalator-walker at the right side, and how Indonesian abuse their car/motorcycle horn (they just honk at everything they see, at any occasion). And please do not let me start on the internet connection.


Events after events, there is a slow-building realization that (in some aspects) Indonesia is not at par with Malaysia, let alone Singapore for that matter. It is not an act of pessimism, Indonesia is still doing pretty good despite its countless problems and never-ending drama of the elite politicians. Being outside the country for years, I have gained a bird-eye view of the nation. Apple to apple comparison now is, arguably, more objective.

There are some adjustments I need to make, re-adapting to a known environment might be more challenging compared to adapting to a whole new place. Most importantly, there are some improvements and betterment I need to witness and create in Indonesia. It is, after all, the responsibility of the conscious minds to shape the surroundings.

On Graduation


A soundtrack to this post

A transition is inevitable. Graduation is a form of transition. Marking the start of a new life, a fully-responsible adult. Besides everything, graduation is a celebration. A lavish one.

University for me, is a getaway. A way to postpone the “real life”, a recess. I think most people got it wrong. University shouldn’t be a place that prepare you for a career in the future. It may help, and it’s good, but it should not be the sole objective.

For that reason, I enjoyed university. I might enjoyed it a bit too much it has become a comfort zone that I need to get away from. The fact is, comfort zone is dangerous, as a comfort zone might be different with “safe zone”.

On Debate

One of the things that I really feel grateful is the fact that I joined the University of Malaya Debate Club, although for a short-term. I did not win any trophies, awards, or anything. In spite of the competitive spirit of varsity debate, I believe that it is not merely about winning. Shaping our mindset, broadening our perspectives are some of the lessons I have learned along the way. I learned that, the ability to see an issue from different perspective will help in constructing a more-balanced opinion.

I also learned that to speak up for 7 minutes, is a privilege. An expensive privilege.

On Indonesia

I am a proud Indonesian. Despite having hard times to justify my pride on Indonesia, I found that there is a hope, even the slightest, that will keep the dream alive. I did my part, by bringing out the potential of Indonesian Student Association in University of Malaya. Throughout the years, we are continuously growing and giving impact to people that we care about.

To think and share knowledge are the natural consequences of an enlightened mind.

CSIS Motto

Being a member of the “enlightened mind”, is a privilege followed by a direct natural consequences. We channel our belief through the social projects we initiated and contributed, PPWI Klang — A school for the stateless children, based in Klang. We practice freedom of speech via “Pemuda Bicara” — a program founded by Fajri Usman. We enchant people with Indonesian culture through ID Fest 2013. We promote unity in diversity through POSPIM 2013. We did it all together.

We even climbed a mountain.

Gunung Rajah

Graduation is, after all, a celebration. A celebration of accomplishments. A “Hurrah!” to every failures we experienced. A celebration of bravery, courageous act to take the next step forward. A way to remind yourself, that it is yet another beginning.