Schmidt on Innovation!
In an interview with McKinsey, Eric Schmidt defines innovation strategy at Google — “Google’s objective is to be a systematic innovator at scale. Scale means more than one. And innovator means things which really cause you to go, “Wow.” And systematic means that we can systemize the approach–we can actually get our groups to innovate. We don’t necessarily know this month which one [will succeed]. But we know it’s portfolio theory. We have enough groups that a few [innovations] will pop up. And, of course, we also cull the ones that are not very successful. We push them to try to do something different, or retarget–or, in fact, get canceled. Although that’s relatively rare.”
The Empire We Call Google!
Now, I am not sure about the ‘rare’ part. Without getting into the details of my interaction with Google, I sincerely want to ask them — where are you going? Building an empire with lots of small interconnected cities to rule the internet, which we understand. Fighting small battles and big wars to acquire the city of hopes, but soon to realize that it cannot be inhabited And so, what does Google do — it shuts down the city — never to exist again. And then moves on to the next on. We have to give it to them – great things have come out of its innovation — search, Gmail, maps, adwords, earth, chrome, analytics and of course Android among the many.
Goliath Building its Self-Limiting Empire!
But there is also the flip side, the downside of innovation. The closing down of reader, the obscurity of Wave and buzz, the confusion with Google +, the lackluster of Google TV just to name a few. I am sure Google has been getting a lot of heat on that. Why do some of its products don’t see the light of the day? Because their projects when they start out are small, but the scale and resources thrown at those projects are huge and soon, the scope of the project becomes huge with all this baggage. Once the scope becomes huge…the execution slows down.
And, apparently, folks at Google need to use their own infrastructure which is humongous — definitely not made for small time projects — so a mismatch again. Some people also call it the NIH (not invented here) syndrome. Anything that’s not invented at Google is inferior. So forcing its engineers to use its own infrastructure is self-limiting in some sense.
I think when Google rolls out a product; they cannot say to heck with everything else, we’ll just roll this out in English. Just because of its sheer presence, they need to support multiple geographies, demographics, and psycho-graphics. And, its innovation does not start with the question — do consumers really want it. It all is a function of creating the solution which scales first, than anything else.
And of course, there needs to be a tectonic shift in the mindset of Googlers. They need to start raising questions about the product design and engineering instead of blindly getting on to the innovation bandwagon. They need to start thinking ‘why’ before ‘how’. They need to start opening up to newer ideas which span beyond the Google walls to see the change.