Google, Innovation and the Willingness to Walk Away

When the words “Google” and “innovation”are used together, the tendency is to immediately think of the famous 20%policy – that dedicated day that every engineer in the company has to work onwhatever captures their interest.

A lot of those project turn intosuccessful products.  Others don’t.  Which is why Google’s decision to walk away from its former commitment to digitize what seems to be the history ofevery newspaper everyplace is worthy of note.

Part of what makes successfulcompanies successful is their willingness to try, sometimes fail and definitelychange their minds.

Google has become the poster childof exactly that capability.  Infact, it’s what drives their culture.

In contrast, if you look atMicrosoft’s decision to start – and now stop – their three year old PioneerStudios skunkworks all-innovation all-the-time operation, the differences inculture become exquisitely clear.

Most particularly in the way thatdecisions are made.

Microsoft, as successful as it isand has been for years, built a bureaucracy.  As well known as it is for its Office suite, IE and more, itis also known to be a hierarchical, bureaucrat’s dream with quick decision makingand innovative nimbleness seemingly far down on its list of priorities.

In contrast, Google’s decision tomove Larry Page back into the CEO chair demonstrated just how concerned thecompany always has been and still is that it keep its challenging andentrepreneurial, fast moving culture.

The other thing to learn from Googleis that it looks for – and celebrates – innovation wherever it finds it.

If you take a look at the wonderful,award-winning Doodle 4 Google drawing that 7-year Matteo Lopez drew, you’ll seejust how far that thinking goes.

How could anyone resist a drawinginspired by Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon?  Or, even better, Matteo’s reason why:  Because he wishes “to meet other peoplein different planets and go to other planets I haven’t been to” because “I’veonly been to Earth.”

In case you weren’t sure, thatlittle boy you just met is Google’s future.

(Note: This article was originally published on Technorati.)