Ever wondered how does a company like Google continue to maintain a spirit of innovation and creativity year after year? Susan Wojcicki, Google’s Senior Vice President of Advertising, notes that fostering a culture that enables innovation to grow is the key. The tech giant nurtures this culture by drawing from nine core principles of innovation coined by Google’s chief social evangelist, Gopi Kallayil.
Here are nine rules that any entrepreneur should adopt to drive organizational innovation and creativity. It is worth paying attention to the deeper meaning of each principle and apply this to make a difference and succeed.
1. Innovation Comes From Anywhere
Innovation can come from the top down as well as bottom up and in the places you least expect. Wojcicki argues that some of the best ideas at Google are sparked in a flash. According to him, several years ago, Google employees posted an ideas board on a wall at Google’s headquarters in Mountain view. On a Friday night, an engineer went to the board and wrote down the details of a convoluted problem we had with our ads system. A group of Googlers lacking exciting plans for the evening began re-writing the algorithm within hours and had solved the problem by Tuesday.
2. Focus on the User
Your primary concern should be the user and all else will follow. Kallayil stresses that creating a user experience first will gradually start to bring in revenue, as more customers will be attracted to your product’s increased benefits. This was the case with Google’s Instant Search feature, which saves the user valuable time with each entry.
3. Aim for ‘Ten Times Better’
If you seek for a radical and revolutionary innovation, think 10 times improvement, and that will force you to think outside of the box. So did Google, when in 2004 it launched its grandiose Google Books project which involved the challenge of organising all the world’s information and digitise all the books ever printed in history.
4. Bet on Technical Insights
Investing in a company’s unique technical insights can lead to a major innovation. That’s how Google engineers came up with the idea of self-driving cars. They teamed up with an artificial intelligence team at Stanford University and used the building blocks in place – Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View cars – to produce experimental cars that have given blind people more independence by driving them to the shops and performing errands.
5. Ship and Iterate
Ship your products often and early, and do not wait for perfection. Also, let users help you to 'iterate' it. When Chrome was released in 2008, Google was introducing an improved version every six weeks. Kallayil acknowledges that “Today. Using this approach, Chrome is the Number One browser in many countries…You may not have perfection in your product, but you trust that your users will get back to you”.
6. Give Employees 20% ‘Free’ Time
Allow employees to dedicate 20% of their work time to deal with projects they are passionate about, even if it’s outside the core job or mission of the company. Kallayil ensures that this will incredibly stimulate their creative thinking. At Google, engineers and project managers enjoy the freedom to set aside one day a week to work on a favourite idea. An engineer planning a trip to Spain found that he could not get a close-up view of the hotel since the road was too narrow for the Google Street View car to enter. He later adapted a Street View camera to fit on a specially-made Google tricycle to go places too narrow for a car and enter tourist locations that ban autos from approaching the premises.
7. Default to Open Processes
Make processes open to all users and tap into the collective knowledge of the user base to discover great ideas. When Google created the Android platform, it encouraged developers outside of Google to create apps for the billions of Android devices users, in order to hire the best developers and produce the best applications. What’s more, in marketing, Google asked users how they would market its voice search app, and children sent smart videos that competed against the campaigns of the big ad agencies.
8. Fail Well
At Google, once a product fails to reach its potential, it is axed, but the company pulls from the best of the features. It is okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes, and correct them fast. Kallayil highlights that “failure is the way to be innovative and successful. You can fail with pride”.
9. Have a Mission That Matters
A mission is one that has the potential to influence many lives and bring about positive change. Google ensures that all of its employees feel attached to it and empowered to help achieve it. Work can be more than a job when it strongly stands for something you care about. An example of this commitment is when a group of dedicated Googlers launched the Person Finder tool within two hours after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan took place in March 2011.
On the whole, Google has been keeping the pipeline of innovation going by empowering its employees and customers as well as using their know-how and creative ideas to launch ground-breaking products.