Since last fall, the news has been dominated by tales of woe: companies going under, layoffs, downsizing, restructuring, billions of dollars lost. It’s no wonder that organizations today feel handcuffed to the point that innovation takes a back seat to simply staying afloat. But a few companies are bucking the trend and seem to be more focused on growth and innovation than ever before. One of these companies is Google.
In the last 3 months alone, Google has announced groundbreaking new projects such as Google Voice, the Chrome operating system, and Google Wave. These projects, which have been brewing for as many as five years now, are major growth opportunities for a company whose core search business is beginning to plateau. While some companies have chosen to stop work on major, untested new projects, Google has opted to charge forward and is planting a number of important seeds for its future. Will all of these new projects be runaway successes? Probably not. Will at least one of them take off? No one can be sure, but given Google’s track record, it’s very likely. We’ve all read the snippet about Google launching its search business during the dot-com bust in 2000.
So what can we learn from Google? First and foremost, Google shows us how important it is to move forward with growth opportunities when those opportunities are the very future of your business. Google knows that its core business, search, is not a major source of growth into the future. There’s increasing competition from companies like Microsoft and Yahoo, and the business itself is mature. So Google is pushing ahead with bold new projects, any one of which could represent huge growth for Google in the years to come. Second, Google’s recent announcements show how seemingly random little experiments can lead to potentially breakthrough new projects. Google Wave, for example, is really the product of years’ worth of experimentation with various communication mechanisms. Finally, Google shows us that even an economic apocalypse (of sorts) is not enough to stifle innovation. Since the company launched in 1998, it is been every business guru’s poster child for innovation. It simply did things differently, and that led to great success; and in the face of this recession, while it has been forced to cut its staff and reign in spending, it has managed to keep innovation alive. The message that sends to its employees and, perhaps more importantly, to its customers, is invaluable.
What can you learn from Google’s recession-survival strategy?