Lessons from Google

I just read this interview with Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt in BusinessWeek and wanted to mention a few thoughts that popped up in my mind as I read it. It’s a good interview, by the way, and is interestingly titled ‘How Google Fuels Its Idea Factory.’ A lot of what he says is simple but often overlooked, and I believe they are lessons everyone in the media industry needs to remember. I have been meeting quite a few people from agencies or companies, of late, who are especially guilty of treading the often trodden path at the risk of innovation, which is what Schmidt talks about. His name in brackets follows his quotes, the rest are my opinions based on what he’s said.

1. You have to have the culture, and you have to get it right. (Schmidt)
Google’s fun office environments are common knowledge. The reason people want to work there is because it isn’t a chore for employees to go to work. Schmidt talks about how Google lets engineers spend about 20% of their time on projects outside their main job, so there is variety. And the truth is, variety really is the spice of life. Let them dabble their fingers in other stuff and they will probably come up with a valuable idea for their main project in the process. Being tight-fisted about deadlines and methodology will get you nowhere.

2. Face-to-face communication will never go out of style, no matter what improvements technology comes up with. A phone call is always going to be faster than e-mail. So if you foster an environment where people want to talk to you, you’ll get more out of them. If you insist on e-mail and pretend to be too busy all the time, you’ll lose valuable candid thoughts.

3. The Google culture makes sense if you’re in it, and no sense if you’re not in it. (Schmidt)
It’s your people’s thoughts that count. The rest be damned. There will always be critics. That’s their job.

4. We make an explicit decision to favor the end-user. (Schmidt).
The end-user is not always your client. It could be the client’s consumer. You’re not working for Virgin, but Virgin’s consumers. Listen to them, and you will automatically be doing the right thing for the brand.

5. You have to have a set of necessary conditions for innovation to occur. To start with, you have to listen to people. …Innovation comes from places you don’t expect. (Schmidt)
Bring in people who are not from a traditional background. Get viewpoints that are different. Even if they are crazy viewpoints, it could trigger something greater. Listening to the same set of people ideate day in and day out will lead to staleness that can only be smelt by someone outside the building. Many agencies today make that mistake and will continue to make it because their ego may not let them admit that the road they’ve been walking on needs re-paving. I recently met a very smart person who said the same thing about traditional advertising agencies. I’m sure the company he works with will go far because they recognize this already. Many agencies and recruitment agencies say that ‘people from other backgrounds are encouraged to apply’, but the truth is, they are as open to receiving those kind of people as you would be to receiving a letter-bomb in the post!!

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