Google’s Guide To Innovation

How to Unlock Strategy, Resources and Technology.

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About This Whitepaper

Growing a culture of innovation isn’t easy.. but it’s necessary. And if there’s one company that truly understands the importance of innovation - it’s Google. For nearly two decades, Google has relied on innovation to become one of the biggest tech companies in the midst of the fiercest competition in any industry.

Key Takeaways:

  • Measure, make decisions, and be transparent in that process
  • Have the willingness to allow failure while exploring new capabilities in the system
  • Don’t forget that culture is always a work in progress
  • Sustained competitive advantage cannot be achieved with technology alone
  • Stay open

Fighting fire with fire

When you’re surrounded by constant change from all directions, the only way to survive is to accept the change. This has been true for nearly a decade now (with the rise of information technology) but simply copying what others are doing only guarantees survival, and that too, just barely.

What businesses actually need is to stop playing catch-up and be the source of change - they need to innovate if they are to stay ahead of the competition. But how?

How can businesses promote innovation within their business?

To create innovation a central pillar of your business model, you must analyze your processes and people. Understand what motivates your employees, reward forward-looking behavior, and most importantly, make your system and processes more engaging and open to change. One of the best areas businesses can start doing this is their IT infrastructure.

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Infrastructural Requirements For Innovation

One of the biggest challenges to innovation in IT has been its relatively rigid nature. Changing any component without complete orchestration with the rest of the system can result in failure. As a result, business continuity has revolved around disaster recovery plans for decades.

But businesses are realizing that there is much greater value in integrating other forms of resilience which makes business continuity less dependent on complete disaster recovery programs (which are more expensive and slower). The whitepaper identifies numerous cloud technologies that can be adopted to facilitate experimentation and innovation with the ever-present risk of complete failure. Some of these cloud technologies include:

  • Hybrid and multi-cloud
  • Cloud-native applications
  • Open cloud architecture
  • DevOps and site reliability engineering (SRE)

The goal of modernizing your IT infrastructure is to give your developers the tools they need to transform innovative ideas into reality. Not only that, the resilience that comes with a modern infrastructure brings a mindset change by instilling confidence in the development team - which is crucial for a culture of innovation.

Technology Is Only Half The Equation

To create a culture for innovation, you certainly need the right technologies, but even more important is the people that use said technologies. The shift to a modern company will certainly have challenges for your employees. One of the biggest challenges many companies face is the supposed disruption that comes with adopting new technologies. Employees shouldn’t feel they are forced to think outside of the box or work without specific instructions. Both of these approaches will likely just lead to reduced productivity.

Instead, businesses need to rethink their employees’ personal goals - ask questions like what makes them happy, where do they see themselves in the next 5 or 10 years, and how can their work become more engaging. By answering these questions, you can effectively rework existing operations and processes to have more room for experimentation while being less punishing when done wrong.

Businesses can also incentivize innovation by rewarding new ideas (positive reinforcement) while not punishing employees who tend to do things their own (granted their way is better in at least some ways).

Furthermore, taking into consideration the current fight against COVID-19, one of the best ways to promote innovation is to make the workload more flexible. For instance, with better remote working tools, employees can work from home without any loss in productivity.

Change Begins From Within

Finally, the most important factor in creating a culture of innovation is you - the decision-maker. Innovation often comes after mistakes and thus before a culture of innovation can be created, a culture that is willing to accept the occasional mistake and failure. And equally important is that both success and failures are shared so everyone learns.

If I were trying to give advice to an enterprise CIO, one of the things I would say is this: Don’t think that you have all the answers. In fact, the probability is very high that you don’t have very many of them at all. Take advantage of opportunities to share knowledge with your colleagues, your friends, even your competitors to better understand what others have learned in order to solve the same problems you have. Openness is your friend. The same thing is true when it comes to not taking all the credit. It’s important to acknowledge other people’s contributions because it gives them the incentive to continue contributing. And so this kind of openness of spirit is just as important as openness of ideas.