Based in Sydney, Australia, Paula le dieu can sometimes be found writing here but can more often be found at

etcon:2003:day4:google and innovation

how do they innovate? first - they have a clear and universally understood mission statement "organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"

keeps them on track and focused but gives them enough to get on with for ...oh...200 years :)

second - do things that matter this means that people want to work for and with google.

third - relentless focus on the user eg. google labs, usability focus

fourth - recruitment - brilliant people have good ideas! hire the right, smart people. attracting these folks means thinking about environment but more importantly ensuring that they have interesting things to do.

fifth - creative environment.

so the process is - recognise that ideas come from everywhere - both inside and outside the company

design for users! - keep the interface and usability at the heart of the product. it is thought about right from the beginning. this requires work. example: the original homepage was so easy, simple and fast.

compile, discuss and prioritise - top 100 - a list of the most important projects that google would like to do. It doesn't represent all the projects they are doing but what they want to do. compilation means gathering ideas. they have explicit tools that allow folks within the company to submit and record ideas. discussion takes place in discussion forums (f2f) - these don't eleminate ideas but serves to flesh them out and give feedback to the creator. prioritise - they use the market to re-prioritise these ideas. every week they meet to prioritise ideas.

how then to deliver - small teams are fast and agile and they have really small teams - 3 people from start to finish and management after launch. this is a great motivation for staff.

communication is key small teams are really good but it does have challenges when you have maybe 100 teams. it is therefore really important that broad, regular communication is encouraged. original design specifications are shared with the entire company - and discussion is encouraged. groups must share techniques, experience and ideas. they do really regular codereviews - this is a way of communicating activity as well as ensuring that code is not reinventing the wheel. they also do usable code reviews - focuses on commenting etc.

they have explicit teams that are responsible for processes - these teams are volunteer positions - ie. they have to commit to time away from their projects.

tech talks - folks speak about their projects. these are recorded and put up on the web. this is really useful for new staff to catch up on projects.

tools to organise - they have tools that allow for idea capture, knowledge management ( a search engine!), tools that communicate weekly updates and reports that allow comments to be added. blogs - use internal weblogs

test, experiment and iterate first user study - they used to put it on the web but now they do smaller studies before release. experiment - they use google labs to experiment. iterate - they iterate again and again.

He reiterates again the importance of recruitment. they have a small hiring committee that oversees all the recruitment - they separate the head count growth need from the recruitment processes in order to ensure the best possible staff. they have a very conservative hiring process - this has meant that they have only had 2 folks that haven't worked out.

what makes this process work. .. management open to ideas, clear recruitment goals that hires folks that sustain the culture, processes and ideas generation, all the food you can eat whenever you want it :)

staying true to their mission!

question: management of ideas is handled by gatekeepers - it is not a democracy, the system is based on trust that ideas will be heard - and evaluated by people capable of evaluating and trusted by others to do so against relevant and understood criteria.

what are the limitations to developing this kind of culture - must hire against criteria.

etcon:2003:day4:demand for innovation