A few weeks ago I was invited by K M World Magazine to attend a sponsored webcast called “Innovation @ Google”. The webcast was earlier today, moderated by Andy More K M World’s publisher and featured Naveen Viswanatha, Google’s Enterprise Sales Engineer.
Here is my recap of the KMWorld Magazine sponsored “Innovation@Google” webcast followed by the presentation PowerPoint in pdf:
Today Google is the “World’s largest search engine” employing more than 16,000 employees in 40 offices worldwide “including Mountain View, New York, Boston, London, Tokyo, Hamburg, Paris and Milan” not to mention Atlanta, GA. Sorry I had to throw that in but either way how can you leave out the AtlantaPlex? : ) Either way, Google has interfaces in 109 languages and 113 international domains. Google’s market share according to MediaMetrix is more than 62% of worldwide search views.
According to Naveen, the internet’s evolution has moved from the early years (pre-1998) of “Information” past the middle years (1998-2006) of “Distribution & Communication” to “Network & Platform” today (2006-). Users seem to have moved from reading, buying, trading and talking online to publishing their own content in the form of social networking sites, video and blogs. In 1998 there were an estimated 77 million users but today Google’s estimate is 1 billion and growing. As a result of this growth Google had no choice but to innovate in new areas simply to keep up with the explosive increase in users. One way Google has kept up with this explosive growth rate is by acquiring new and innovative companies. Along the way Google has acquired companies like Keyhole, dMarc, writely, SketchUp, Pyra Labs, Applied Semantics, Urchin, Blogger, Picasa, dodgeball and android just to name a few.
With innovation at the core of Google’s competitiveness how does Google foster innovation in house? To solve this critical problem early on, one of Google’s founders developed a method for resource allocation rooted in the world of academics and the profession of both founders fathers. Known as “Sergey’s Resource Allocation Rule” the 70/20/10 rule finds search (quality, crawl systems, indexing), advertising (AdWords & AdSense) and applications (Google Apps) at the heart of Google’s business model as well as where 70 percent of Googler time is spent. After the important stuff gets done, then come projects Google deems as having “Strong Potential” such as Blogger, Google News, Google Pack software and Picasa Google’s photo-bloging platform. “Strong potential” projects are given 20 percent time by Googlers. After the most important work and project with “Strong potential” are out of the way Googlers spend the remaining 10 percent of their time on projects of personal interest. Products like Google WiFi, Google Transit and various forms of offline advertising have evolved out of Google personal interest projects. In addition to allocating resources Google keeps ideas fresh in part by sponsoring multiple collegiate competitions designed to target various areas of academia annually.
According to Naveen, Google believes in having a flat management structure. He says it’s the key to Google’s success. By having a flat management structure, Googlers are free to innovate and share information openly. In fact, Google has created internal systems and process that appear to replace the roll of what some consider traditional management structure. Naveen went on to talk about a few applications Google has created to help foster innovation at Google.
One of Google’s processes for internal collaboration is called “Product Snippets”. Google Product Snippets are a weekly email sent out on Monday where Googlers are asked to submit their previous weeks projects and activities as well as their forecasted work for the week ahead. All Product Snippets are then compiled into a database and made searchable to other Googlers so everyone knows what is going on at Google. Data collected via Snippets is then published to the “PDB” or Google’s project database user interface all in real time making information collected easy for any Googler to access as well as comprehend no matter their area of expertise, language or location.
Google Ideas is another application developed and used internally by Google to “generate, prize & encourage” Googlers to act on new ideas. In “Google Ideas”, Googlers can share ideas, keep up to date on new ideas for potential new projects, comment on new ideas and even rate ideas on a scale of 1-5. As you can see, at Google there is a lot of focus on new ideas. New ideas it seems, lead to innovative new solutions according to Naveen.
It’s easy to see in these examples that “innovation is a collaborative process” and that “collaboration enables innovation”. Another way Google helps collaboration and thus innovation is called “moma”. “Moma inside Google” is Google’s intranet search engine offering options like Googlers, Rooms, Maps and of course the famous Google “more” option. In addition to these internal Google vertical search options, Googlers can choose between internal secure content and Moma NEXT. Using Moma, Naveen explains how he finds the right expert Googler to collaborate with on an issue impacting his project and explains how Moma makes collaboration easy at Google. In addition, Naveen goes on to demonstrate some of the advanced tools within Moma including definitions, glossary terms, Googler added search results and suggestions all accessible via a drop down in Moma’s main GUI. Naveen’s screen shot also reveals that Googlers even have access to food, lunch guest, lunch recommendations, tickets, IT support, expense reports, Google HR, gTime (Google Time Cards), performance reviews, vacation requests, the Google employee handbook, benefits at Google, photos and more. Naveen points out that, public applications like, Gmail, Google Talk, Calendar, Docs and more have all been integrated into one seamless streamlined application. Google Moma is an efficient platform for collaboration and therefore innovation at Google.
Naveen’s next slide is all red with white text that says “Innovation = Discovery + Collaboration” all over “(+Fun!)”. Bottom line, by allowing Googlers creative latitude to solve problems it’s easy to see why Googlers enjoy collaborating and why innovation just seems to happen at Google. Please feel free to check out their archived webcast. Again, special thanks to Andy More, K M World, Naveen Viswanatha and Google. Great job guys, gals and Googlers!