The word should have seen you click away from this page already. I’m certainly bored with the debate on this word. Innovation is to make something better and that wasn’t there before – and that improves those earlier things in some way – and it’s not easy to do right? Let’s be clear -
Innovation Only Happens When
- You have identified the reason why you needed it in the first place
- You have approached the challenge from multiple angles
- The angles were identified by the key beneficiaries of the innovation
- There are only a few people with decision making ability involved in its creation
- Those involved are seriously cool about being proved stupid or plain wrong about everything they contribute but keep going
- When there are a variety of creative minds in a safe place and free to comment and think
- When there is no preconception about the nature of the outcome
- When you have defined the ‘measure’ of success – what you agree qualifies as innovative
- When everyone shares the same definition of innovation in the first place
* In most businesses ‘innovation’ never happens. In many cases being innovative would simply be to do what had already been agreed needed to be done.
Google’s market capitalization breached a record high $260 billion this March 2013. Since its IPO in 2004, its shares have soared over 900%. The company’s success stems from its continuous innovation and it extraordinary management practices. Google has been keeping the pipeline of innovation going by tapping its employees and letting ideas percolate up.
The company has a relatively small group of employees – more than 30,000 workers (excluding 20,000 it gained when acquiring Motorola). Google is smaller than Exxon Mobil (76,900 employees) and Apple (72,800).
Google’s innovation secrets.
Google is trying to create an arena where people can be brought together in surprising ways to innovate.
“We try to have as many channels for expression as we can, recognizing that different people, and different ideas, will percolate up in different ways.” Laszlo Bock SVP People Operations
These channels include:
Google Cafés: Designed to encourage interactions between employees within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play. Direct emails to any of the company’s leaders.
Google Moderator: An innovation management tool designed by Google’s engineers. The simple idea behind it is that when people have tech talks or company-wide meetings, it lets anyone ask a question and then people can vote up the questions that they’d like answered. Through Moderator, people can discover existing ideas, questions or suggestions, vote for ideas, questions or suggestions and see the aggregate votes to date, create a new series asking for ideas organized by topic, event or meeting. Google Moderator itself is one of Google’s infamous “20 percent” projects.
By allowing its engineers to spend 20% of their work week on projects that interest them, Google is able to tap into the many talents of its employees.
Google+ Conversations: TGIF: Google’s weekly all-hands meetings, where employees ask questions directly to the company’s top leaders and other execs about any number of company issues.
Google Universal Ticketing Systems: ‘GUTS’ – is a way to file issues about anything, and is then reviewed for patterns or problems.
Google ‘FixIts’: 24-hour sprints where Googlers drop everything and focus 100% of their energy on solving a specific problem; Internal innovation reviews, which are formal meetings where executives present product ideas through their divisions to the top executives; and a wide range of surveys.
“We regularly survey employees about their managers, and then use that information to publicly recognize the best managers and enlist them as teachers and role models for the next year. The worst managers receive intense coaching and support, which helps 75 percent of them get better within a quarter.” Laszlo Bock
A survey called ‘Googlegeist’: This solicits feedback on hundreds of issues and then enlists volunteer employee teams across the entire company to solve the biggest problems.
“Personally, I believe this culture is an insight about the human condition. People look for meaning in their work. People want to know what’s happening in their environment. People want to have some ability to shape that environment,” Laszlo Bock
Google has cultivated a creative and passionate workforce that holds the key to the company’s innovation. Any company can benefit from learning how to better attract and manage innovators, foster engagement, and ultimately lead to success.
But why don’t they?