Googling for Innovation

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While reading an article in Times of India on Google’s Innovative approaches, few things that struck me were:

  • Google is doing an excellent job of harnessing ideas from it’s employees and converting them into business opportunities. It has successfully created a win-win situation by tapping into the creative talents of it’s employees. The organization benefits and so do the employees. I would say that most of the brilliant people who work for Google would still be happy if Google did not provide opportunities to it’s employees for bringing forth their ideas and then also pursuing them to reality, however Google understands that the brilliant people that work for it are capable of much more than the ‘immediate’ work that they do and it provides opportunities and an ecosystem to harness the creative talent/ideas that the brilliant people working for it had otherwise no obligation to share.
  • There is almost 0 [Zero] attrition in Google. This would mean that all those who join Google find what they want to do at Google. Employees feel that they learn more at Google than at any other place!. In my opinion this is a very important factor for today’s knowledge worker. In fact it is being observed in Europe that individuals prefer to be part of organizations where they have continuous opportunities to learn rather than be part of big name/brand organizations. The environment and continuous opportunities for learning that the organization provides for it’s knowledge workers is today a very significant differentiate for attracting and retaining talent.
  • Independent thinking. It has an environment where people are encouraged and forced to think. I believe that this is one of most important quality to be present in a person. Imagine an organization of ‘thinkers’ vs. an organization of just ‘doers’ [This is not to say that the thinkers just think and perform no action.] The difference is in thinking and doing vs doing without thinking. An organization where all it’s workforce is a thinking workforce would no doubt fare better than an organization whose workforce is just about doing and ‘carrying out orders’
  • 20% free time for innovation. People in Google are allowed to spend 20% of their time in doing things other than their ‘immediate work’. Now how that happens in practice could be a question – 20% of time per day/week/year etc etc.. the logistics etc.. but the important thing is that employees in Google know that they have the 20% time for pursuing their other interests apart from their immediate work. There are other organizations that follow this principle – 3M is very well known for this approach.
  • Make a difference. This is also one of the very essential ingredients to innovation. A constant desire and lookout for making a difference to whatever we do, our surroundings etc.. There is a National Innovation Foundation [ http://www.nif.org.in/ ] that ‘scouts, spawns and sustains’ grass root innovation within India. These innovators are people living in the rural area, villages, small cities with all the constraints that we can imagine. People with no or little formal education – the farmers, the mechanics etc.. People with no support structure of corporate India – yet these innovators have been able to innovate. I think the single biggest reason for their success is ‘Desire to make a difference‘. Each of their innovation speaks of an idea or a solution that makes a difference to their/their community’s life.
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