Fortune Tech’s Miguel Helft wrote a long, descriptive and analytical piece on Google earlier this year. It was quite inspired, to say the least. It inspired me to think about what I could learn from the article that shows Google in light of recent events and as a company that has survived and transitioned into an internet behemoth.
As I thought about it, it struck me that there were actually several takeaways from the article that each of us, as a person, can and should imbibe within ourselves. Be it from Larry Page as a person and his quirky nature, which gets things done, or from Google as a company that awes and inspires many across the globe, there is something that we can learn.
I have tried to put down my thoughts about what struck me as impressive about Google and how its philosophy has redefined the technology sector, springing up newer ideas and innovations while creating solutions to benefit mankind.
Google is an unconventional company
It has always been an unconventional company. Right from the moment the founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page grouped to work on their grand idea of downloading the web and linking it, it was unconventional in every sense. It did not have a predecessor to learn from and improvise upon. Nor had there been another company which had envisioned it to that scale and impact. Nor was there a precedent to such an idea that was informative and functionally efficient.
All this led Google to view and carry out business differently. Different didn’t always translate to success; it was just a new direction. This fuelled the innovative minds at the company and soon enough, it became the hotbed of innovation. Google has now carved out a class of its own in the field of innovation in the decade-and-half years of its existence. Not many companies can boast of such an accomplishment.
Simplicity is often the key
Many a time, our association of innovation with complexity drives us away from innovating anything. Google has shown that it is not always necessary to have complex ideas to innovate. Contrarily, if the Google model is followed, it is often simplicity that is the key to innovation. Grand solutions do not always need grand and complex ideas. Simple ideas that address a minor part of the solution can often create a platform for others to build upon.
Google has retained simplicity even in innovation. Radical innovations such as the self-driven car might seem breathtakingly out-of-the-world, but the concept of making people’s journeys safer using the technological prowess and capability of machines to interact with each other is not radically mind-boggling. Using simpler ideas such as wearing technology on our bodies, Google has tried to create consumer-driven products such as Google Glass that keep our hands free from the phone, encouraging more and effective use of technology.
Though the technology that runs behind the scenes of such brilliant ideas is extraordinarily complex, the needs and solutions look quite simple. Google has always worked towards addressing a need using technology, ultimately creating more productive resources that improve efficiency of people, driving up the economic value of its products.
Adaptation is essential
Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution are as applicable to organisations as to humans. As people and ideas evolve, the obsolete do and will perish. The fittest shall survive and to be among the fittest, one has to adapt.
History has shown us, on several occasions, how an organisation, even at the helm of success, is gullible to overconfidence and lack of adaptation, and can collapse and be extinct in no time. Kodak is probably an epitome of such a large organisation which failed to see the advent of digital photography, something it invented in the first place.
Google is often at the other end of the spectrum. It is is able to continually adapt itself to the rapidly changing technological landscape. In most cases, it is the one causing change, rather than following it.
It started out as a search engine, but now, it is no longer just that. Its array of products and services cover the vast gamut of human lives, from basic essential services such as traffic updates, emails and social connections, to more luxuries such as blogging platforms, mobile devices, operating system, utilities and what not… It is an entire ecosystem of services, but that is for another post…
Such is the willingness of Google to learn. It learns from its own mistakes, others’ mistakes and people’s experiences. Using all this, it then develops solutions that address a basic human need, sometimes even before we know we need them.
“Moving with the times” was a popular adage for Gen X. That won’t work very well for Gen Y. For us, “moving before the times” seems like the only solution. Google exemplifies such a philosophy.