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.)

Google, Gays and Social Responsibility

(This article was first published on Technorati.)

If you know anything about Google, you know that their hiring process is one of the most challenging on the planet.  On purpose.

They need that level of differentiation among and within their staff to make sure that they keep doing what they're doing better than anyone else.  And more besides.

Which means, from a purely pragmatic perspective, that the less they discriminate based on anything other than talent, the larger the talent pool from which they can choose and the greater their success levels will continue to be over time.

That's why the "It Gets Better" Google Chrome television ad - with its nearly 900k views on YouTube (at the time of this writing) is so indicative of Google - and such an interesting commentary on the world.

Because the company has gotten an amazing level of pushback from tens of thousands of now former Google users who are saying - specifically because of Google's support for the Lesbian/Gay/Transgender (LGBT) population - that they won't use Google as their search engine any longer.

My answer to that?  Bing and Yahoo should - faster than fast - come out with statements - or videos - in support of Google's ad.

Because "corporate social responsibility" is more than pretty words.  It's a commitment on the part of organizations to do the most they can to help and support their own people as well as society as a whole.

And now, in this economy, with corporations and their incredible cash reserves doing more to determine the future of everyone's standard of living than ever before, it is even more incumbent upon companies to fulfill that obligation.

Good for Google stepping up in support of one of the last populations in the US which is actively and legally discriminated against.

And good for you in looking at your own hiring and promotion processes - no matter where you are on this earth - to make sure your HR policies support every person of every gender, creed and more to succeed.

Because then you'll succeed even more, too.

A Cool One Billion - Cash

When the news came out that Nokia stands to make over $1bn in payments from Microsoft for its joint venture deal to develop and promote a Windows7 mobile phone, the reactions were more than varied.

There were those who thought, "Hmmm.  Not bad for a company that's been systematically losing marketshare" or "Well, they certainly needed a boost - and got one."

Then there was Google's reaction - which was so eloquently expressed by the anonymous executive quote:
Two turkeys don't make an eagle.
Whoever that person is - you just gotta love someone who says something like that about two world-leading matter what their current status might be.

We'll leave it to time to see just how the deal plays out.


Microsoft Rumored to Pay Nokia $1 Billion in Windows Phone Deal (DigitalTrends)

IT ROI - The Broader Strategic View

There's an interesting article in Forbes about figuring out IT ROI.

Why it's interesting is not so much because of what it says as because of what it doesn't.

Now, to be fair, it is geared toward CIOs - and in that way, it's a handy-dandy guide to looking at the various cost factors that come into the IT decision.

On the other hand, because it's geared toward CIOs it misses out on the most important ROI factor questions of them all:

  • Does the new technology fulfill the strategic, market-building and profitability goals of the enterprise?
  • How do you know?  Have the other executive team members seen and bought into the win you're proposing through this technology change/adoption?
  • How long until that return is seen - for everyone?
  • How will you know - in hard measures - that the ROI has been accomplished?
  • How long will it last?  In other words, how long - according to the vendors and your calculations - before you're having to come back for another capital injection?
Technology is a wonderful thing.  It's also expensive.

CIO types are now arguing that with the cloud available - and all the providers making those clouds bigger and brighter with ever more silver linings every day - that technology costs are decreasing.

True - at least for the actual costs of the technology and its implementation.  And that's a good argument. (For the best argument along those lines, take a look at the Google Apps/Microsoft Office wars that have just begun.)

But the cost of technology is - and must be - part of a larger whole.  It can't be seen as separate from anything.  Especially because technology is - and must be - a driver toward strategic success.

(By the way, you entrepreneurial types, if you're building an IT-related product, make sure you calculate and include these arguments as part of your value proposition.  Otherwise, the WIIFM for your potential customers isn't really being addressed.)

So, take a look at the Forbes article, because it's good information and useful.  Then, before you approve any further IT purchases, take those calculations and put them into a broader context.  A strategic context.

That way you'll ensure a win.

Carl Icahn and Knowing When to Leave

The legendary activist investor, Carl Icahn, announced that he is leaving the Board of Yahoo! - a company that many argue his actions saved from complete demise.

You may recall the wars of the recent past when Microsoft put in a $47B bid for the whole of Yahoo! and Jerry Yang, its founder and then CEO, said no.  That's when Icahn really got going.  And that's what led to Yang stepping down, Carol Bartz coming in as Chief Executive and a search deal between Microsoft and Yahoo! finally being successfully arranged.

Now it's time for Icahn to leave.  He doesn't need to keep his seat on the Board (although there's no news about his removing his money from the company).  He did what he needed to do, has ensured that the company - and his investment - is in good hands, both in its management and Board membership, and that it has a long-term strategic pathway for ongoing success being actively executed.

Icahn is known for getting in and making waves.  What can also be learned from him is how and when to leave - especially when it is, to a great extent, you who created the success.