Innovation @ Google

futurethink innovation @ google

I “attended” (sat at my desk and watched) a webinar yesterday called Innovation @ Google: A Day in the Life. The main speaker was Naveen Viswanatha, a sales engineer for Google Enterprise. His talk was focused on what goes on inside Google’s walls that help the company innovate so consistently. Here are some of my favorites:

Snippets – Snippets are sort of a work-log/task manager that employees maintain, and they’re publicly viewable within Google so that managers and other employees can see what people are up to. These are at the heart of Google’s flat organizational structure. A manager or senior Googler can keep tabs on hundreds of employees by just scanning their Snippets for a few hours each week. No need for incessant emails, meetings, or phone calls – everything a manager would want to know is easily accessible.

Ideas – Google also has an internal ideas database that’s simple, clean, and community-focused. The site allows employees to submit their ideas along with a short description and the type of resources that would be required to get it going (in terms of technological infrastructure, not money). Other employees can then view submissions, rate them, and comment on them. Ideas that have the highest ratings get voted the top, and turned into actual projects.

Moma – Moma is Google’s internal wikipedia-like database for people, projects, ideas, and anything else you could imagine. Employees visit Moma hundreds of times each day, rather than interrupting one another with phone calls and emails. Looking for an expert on mapping software? Just go to Moma, type in your query, and you’ll get all the people within Google that have experience in mapping. Want to know what SQL means? Type in SQL in the query box, and the definition will pop up along with a few suggested resources to visit.

All of these applications mirror the simplicity and searchability of Google’s public applications. It’s all about transparency at Google – if you want to know something, it’s pretty easy to find it out. Employees also use GMail and GChat internally to communicate with one another.

Another interesting point Naveen made in his talk was that because everything is so public and transparent, people have the incentive to contribute. Employees’ resumes, Snippets, and Idea submissions are all publicly viewable (and when I say “publicly,” I mean within Google). Employees want to have a lot of ideas attributed to them; they want to have contributed to many projects; they want to be part of this giant, game-changing machine – so everybody contributes, and everybody works hard. If you don’t everyone will know the second they click on your profile. It’s kind of brilliant.

The whole system has a sort of social networking bent to it that really got me excited. We’ve been working on an upcoming research report about The Future of Social Networks, and a lot of what we talk about is going on within Google – namely, the social network is becoming an integral part of how organizations work and manage employees internally.

I’ll be sure to post a link to the webinar when it’s ready.

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