Google has been many times ranked among the most innovative companies in the world. But what is a secret recipe behind their innovation success? I had a chance to meet and discuss with Googlers in Mountainview and to feel the company’s innovation spirit. This is how I see some of the important ingredients for their recipe for success.
Something old, something new, something borrowed…
At Google they openly admit that not all of the best experts nor best ideas can be found on their campus. So they borrow ideas opportunistically. They have managed to maintain a humble and curious innovation culture, which proactively searches ideas outside and utilizes existing models from other industries. Google also tries to take all the benefits out of old, discarded ideas and uses mechanisms to store information from different research and development projects. What they do differently compared to many other organizations is that they also systematically utilize this existing information for forthcoming projects. Many of the ideas being impossible to implement a few years back might turn out to be attractive with the current advanced technology. And in addition they have a huge number of talents who are ready to pursue their dreams and new ideas every day.
Creativity is as much giving up constraints and old assumptions as it is to create something new. If you work with existing frames or set too modest goals for the development you end up with ordinary solutions. Google has practices to nourish unconventional thinking. Their 10X approach aims at out-of-the-box thinking by radically magnifying (or minifying) challenges. Their “no jerk policy” push organization towards open culture where ideas can be expressed freely without a fear of negative confrontation. Radical innovations need dreaming and room for wild ideas. As Albert Einstein once said: “if at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”.
Create attractive stories – Storytelling
Ideas are cheap and there are many of them. You need an attractive story to get projects forward. You must combine your customer need based justification of the project with technical concept and an attractive business proposal, and communicate this to others. This is something that Google does extremely well. If the story is attractive enough their “internal job market” ensures that interesting new projects are known and attract the best talents from the company. A convincing story is also needed if you want to catch the best collaboration partners from outside and your first piloting customers.
One thing that often is emphasized at Google and other Silicon Valley companies is the acceptance of failures. When you share failed projects as well and the key learnings openly, you actually save time and resources from others falling into the same trap. Google celebrates failures also to get their employees to dream wild. Tolerance for risks and innovator mindset are needed especially when you pursue really radical outcomes where failing is evident every now and then. After working fifteen years with European companies I sense a cultural difference how unsuccessful projects are practically dealt with in Europe and Silicon Valley. However, as it was said at Google, try to make new mistakes – not to repeat old ones.
And what about this bottom-up innovation approach and the famous 20% rule (giving employees 20 % of their work time to pursue projects they are passionate about). Yes, it still alive and kicks new ideas forward, whether this rule is for everyone at Google, that is the different story…
Since there is already a lot about Google and its innovation approach written, you may want to check these “official principles” guiding innovations at Google.
And if you want to hear a direct voice of Googlers, watch this brief 3 minutes’ video.