In the book there are three sections: the elements that make the company successful, what Google's founder's philosophy is and a look at some of the challenges facing google in the future. Running though the book are a two themes: one is finding the right balance between what people are good at and what can be automated effectively, another is putting users first as summed up in Larry Page's mantra "Put users first, the rest will follow." This emphasis of putting user's needs ahead of marketing needs often puts pressure on the company- pressure that they have so far avoided caving into.
In The Google Way he places the company's founders in a history of innovators going back to Ford's assembly line to less-successful innovators like Xerox's experience PARC and other American businesses. As he sees it, Google has made a number of innovations in areas ranging from people and team management to product conception by re-examining deeply held business-school beliefs and either modifying them or rejecting them outright in favour of their own ideas, ideas usually based on the work of other researchers thanks to Google's ties to academia that provides an on-going source of ideas and talent. Google's founders are good at taking ideas from different disciplines and applying them to solve new problems.
The major part of the book looks at 10 factors, grouped into a section called "A Formula 1 Engine", that sets Google apart. Bernard makes the point that Google's success comes from process, specifically finding and hiring first-rate people, then making effective use of them. These principals range from the well-known 20% rule allowing staff to work on personal projects , to recruiting practices and creating small teams with goals that can be achieved quickly. Each section ends by asking if the point is applicable to other companies. There's a lot of interesting examples of how Google's principals are being applied in other businesses, maybe none more than the French restaurant (p. 225) that lets sous-chefs invent new dishes that get put on an experimental menu for customers to, um, beta test. As Girard points out, no organization should expect to be successful by copying these ideas as-is, but rather look at them as ideas that could be adapted to other situations.
The last part of the book looks at some of the challenges Google will faces. These challenges range from cultural (Google works best in English), governmental (Privacy concerns, regulation) to business (areas where there are strong competitors like corporate search or applications like mail or office application) as well as company politics (employee shareholders, different classes of employees). This is perhaps the most relevent section given news over the past few months that Google is closing down some of their less-successful projects. It's easy to write about what the company is doing right, but while confident they can overcome them, here Girard writes about where he expects Google to encounter problems in the near-term.
The Google Way focuses on what has made the company successful, namely it's ability to harness the talents of its staff and continue to attract new talent. It's recommended summer reading.