Google’s 8 Pillars of Innovation

The greatest innovations are the ones we take for granted, like light bulbs, refrigeration and penicillin. But in a world where the miraculous very quickly becomes common-place, how can a company, especially one as big as Google, maintain a spirit of innovation year after year?

1. Have a mission that matters

Work can be more than a job when it stands for something you care about. Google’s mission is to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’  When Google starts working in a new area, it’s simply because there is a fundamental issue that hasn’t had any solution, and Google is there to make a difference using the technology they posses. Gmail was created to address the need for more web email functionality, great search and more storage.

2. Think big but start small

No matter how ambitious the plan, you have to roll up your sleeves and start somewhere. Google Books, which has brought the content of over 10 millions of books online, was an idea that Larry Page had for a long time.He began scanning pages, timed how long it took with a metronome, ran the numbers and realized it would be possible to bring the world’s books online.

3. Strive for continual innovation, not instant perfection

The best part of working on the web? Do-overs. The iterative process often teaches us invaluable lessons. Some Google products are updated every day. It’s much better to learn these things early and be able to respond than to go too far down the wrong path; learning faster and taking the next steps based on data.

4. Look for ideas everywhere

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.

Some of the best ideas at Google are sparked just like that – when small groups of Googlers take a break on a random afternoon and start talking about things that excite them.

5. Share Everything

Googlers (Google employees) know pretty much everything that’s going on and why decisions are made. Every quarter, the entire Board Letter is shared with all 26,000 employees, using the same slides presented to the Board of Directors in a company-wide meeting.

By sharing everything, you encourage the discussion, exchange and re-interpretation of ideas, which can lead to unexpected and innovative outcomes.

6. Spark with Imagination, Fuel with Data

What begins with intuition is fuelled by insights. If you’re lucky, these reinforce one another. For a while the number of Google search results displayed on a page was 10 simply because Google founders thought that was the best number. Eventually, a test was conducted, asking users, ‘Would you like 10, 20 or 30 search results on one page?’ They unanimously said they wanted 30, but 10 results did far better in actual user tests, because the page loaded faster. That’s the beautiful thing about data – it can either back up your instincts or prove them totally wrong.

7. Be a Platform

There is so much awe-inspiring innovation being driven by people all over the globe. That’s why everyone inside Google believes so strongly in the power of open technologies. They enable anyone, anywhere, to apply their unique skills, perspectives and passions to the creation of new products and features on top of our platforms. This openness helps to move the needle forward for everyone involved.

8. Never Fail to Fail

AdSense and Google Answers were both uncharted territory for the company. While AdSense grew to be a multi-billion-dollar business, Google Answers (which let users post questions and pay an expert for the answer) was retired after four years. Many things was learnt in that time, and everyone was able to apply the knowledge gathered to the development of future products. If the engineers had been afraid to fail, nobody would have tried Google Answers or AdSense, and missed an opportunity with each one.

Originally appeared on Think With Google. Edited.

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