It is in times of crises that eventual winners are determined, said Google Inc’s Dave Girouard at the APEC SME Summit 2009 in Singapore on 12 November 2009. Girouard, head of Google’s enterprise division, delivered a 15-minute speech on how companies can effectively innovate during an economic downturn. Stating that companies need to take advantage of the recession by innovating in order to establish themselves and achieve competitive separation, he shared six innovation-friendly principles practised at Google.
Hiring is at the heart of all they do. By hiring people that a company can first and foremost trust with information and decision-making, Google empowers employees to act fast, make mistakes, recover and do better.
20 per cent time. Employees get, for example, one day off in a week or one week off every five weeks to do what they want to do, based on the principle that when people work on what they are passionate about, commitment and productivity increases. While not perfect, the system has indirectly given birth to some of Google’s most successful features, such as Google News and Gmail.
Ideas can come from everywhere and everybody. Avenues for idea-sharing at Google go beyond the suggestion box, where open-mindedness is practised through a system that allows for ideas not just to be shared but explored, discussed, criticized, vetted, and ultimately fine-tuned into marketable products.
Share all information. Maintaining a degree of transparency, be it in letting everybody know what everybody else is working on, or sharing information discussed within the boardroom with employees comes with a certain degree of risk, but is important in nurturing an environment of trust and creativity.
Iterate products. Even after a product has been introduced into the market, Google gives employees the flexibility to improvise and improve on it in incremental steps, quickly and frequently— effectively allowing the company to have one foot in the market and another in the lab.
Users come first, not money. Asking “What is best for our users?” helps to clarify things at the decision-making process, and when the needs of the users are served, everything else will fall into place for the company, its employees, advertisers and shareholders.