So you want your company to be innovative like Google. You want to have a lab and a constant flow of ideas, but you don't know where to begin. In an entertaining speech the other day at the AIIM 2010 conference in Philadelphia, Cyrus Mistry from Google explained some the drivers of Google's corporate culture of innovation. He says it starts with Type A personalities, the type for whom an A- was never quite good enough, but if you can get past that rather daunting entry point, consider these other ways to make your company more innovative:
1. Treat your employees like adults
That means there's no sick time, no vacation schedule and there's certainly no time clock. You want to work from home, you work from home. If you come in at 9:10, there isn't an angry manager standing at the door staring at his watch and giving you the evil eye. Mistry says at Google: "They don't care what time you come in. They just expect you to get the work done."
2. Put your work in the cloud
No big surprise coming from a guy who works at Google and sells cloud services for a living, but there's more to this than a pure marketing play. If you don't care where your employees work, you have to make their work always available and the cloud lets you do that.
3. Never, ever have meetings
This is my personal favorite. I hate meetings. I have friends who work in corporations who spend their days in meetings. I always wonder when they actually do, you know, the work. Mistry said that Google actually has a policy against recurring meetings. I'm not sure that's true, but it speaks to working, doing, thinking instead of meeting, talking, planning.
4. Share by default
At Google, when you create a document, the default setting is to share with the entire company. The idea is to share and analyze. Each employee sets goals every week and publishes them on a central web site where everyone in the company can see them. The culture is not to hoard information, but to share and disseminate it and discuss it. Mistry says Google also has an ideas database where anyone can offer any idea and if enough people like it, you can work on it (as he jokes) in your spare time. It could be something as interesting Google Wave or as mundane as the types of cookies in the coffee room.
5. Stay flexible
This is the hardest one of all for most organizations. Lack of rigidity means lack of control, and you can't really do any of these without flexibility and trust, two traits that are in short supply in many of today's corporate cultures. Yet Google, has managed to maintain flexibility and has rejected rigidity through phenomenal growth and success. They have no standard operating procedure documents (SOPs) at Google Mistry explains. It's just not part of the culture. The idea is to freelance, be creative, to be thinking and to foster a culture of innovation.
For many companies, bound by legal and regulatory constraints, this level of flexibility and freedom is probably impossible, but if you could pick one or two of these and put them to work in your organization, it's possible you could start to innovate too. Not everyone can or should be like Google, but if you want to innovate, listen to one of the companies that does it best and learn what you can. Sure his speech was entertaining, but there was also a thread of truth that ran through the whole thing and smart companies should be paying attention to this.
Photo by Mil8 on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.