Why Google's drowning in talent

Looking at the departure of top Google flack Elliot Schrage for Facebook and concluding that the search engine is suffering a "brain drain" is the laziest journalism on the subject I could imagine. The BBC's take on the subject is predictable, citing the same names — Ben Ling, Ethan Beard, even chef Josef Desimone — everyone else does. The most telling thing is actually a Google spokesbot's programmed response: "We have a deep management pool at Google." The problem at Google is not that its brains are going out the drain. It's that the drain is plugged up, and not nearly enough are leaving.

Google does everything it can to coddle its engineers, both financially and physically. By shifting from stock options to restricted shares, it has made their compensation less dependent on the swings of the market, and thus discouraged departures that might otherwise take place.

The management pool at Google is deep indeed, and some find themselves drowning in it. Making a splash is harder and harder, as the company reins in its chaos; to those fighting to get unloved projects launched, a clique close to Larry and Sergey seem to be the only ones at the company who matter.

Human-resources departments pride themselves on minimizing turnover. But Google's "people officers" might want to rethink their approach. A bit of churn could do the company good — from the top of the company on down.