Understanding what makes Google Google has little to do with algorithms, market capitalization estimates, or the total number of employees, according to Marissa Mayer, the first female engineer at Google and the company's vice president of location and local services.
In the forthcoming book In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy, Mayer explains that it is impossible to comprehend Google without knowing a key tidbit about the upbringing of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Specifically, that both were "Montessori kids," educated in Montessori schools.
"It's really ingrained in their personalities," Mayer told Levy, according to In the Plex. "In Montessori school you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so. Do something because it makes sense, not because some authority figure told you. This is really baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They're always asking, 'Why should it be like that?' It's the way their brains were programmed early on."
Mayer recounted an episode during a dinner at St. James's Palace with Prince Philip at which Brin and Page drank a side of fruit juice in one gulp, rather than add it to their souffle, as their hosts had intended. Mayer later told the duo that the side had been meant as a condiment to the dish--rather than a separate "plate"--but Page and Brin responded by challenging Mayer with a "Who says?"
According to the Montessori.edu website, the Montessori education system "emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities."
In the Plex, available April 12, chronicles Google's rise, its challenges in China, its culture, Google.gov, and more. Read more about its findings here.