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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Google way to innovation

I was reading the New York Times online over the weekend and was reading an article about the Google Way for innovation.

Like the classic example of 3M - Google's engineers are encouraged to take 20 percent of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally. This means that if you have a great idea, you always have time to run with it.

As I've discovered in my past people work harder if it is something that they are passionate about and are given time to do so. However, the article highlights the concept of the 'grouplet' when say something that you want to work on isn't say a new product or is something that is going to produce change that affects other departments. The article then mentions that these grouplets have no budget and they have no authority to decision make - but what they do have is a group of people who are looking to convince their organisation that this is an idea worth pursuing.

Say for example that you are looking to introduce a new working process or working on delivering a wiki as a means of delivering on a project. - then say a wiki grouplet might be a good idea and using people other than management as a means of selling the idea by giving talks to say a staff meeting or by holding brown bag lunches where people just drop in from the canteen to find out whats going on and putting their views in to the process.

The article extends the concept just to look at other areas such as a customer satisfaction fixit grouplet or even a grouplet to look at say ways that we can make a small improvement by losing a piece of bureaucracy.

Or my favorite: the Customer Happiness Fixit, when we fix all those little things that bug our users and make them sad — for example, when the hotkeys aren’t just right on mobile phones. Many of these events come with special T-shirts and gifts to reward the engineers who take a little time out to work on them.

The concept could be extended to be part of the new arrival induction process and people were encouraged to get involved with a grouplet. It helps with the induction process in my view and also starts to get people involved in the social networks that they need to cultivate them - but also you should be set this as a target as part of your appraisal process.

This of course can be a way to spread stories about the organisation but also by bringing in new views, then you can start to get new ideas looking at a problem. I'm not suggesting that there should be an anarchic situation and the grouplets need guidance to make sure they are aligned with the company interest.

Having a lot of people who are self-organising can be powerfully positive or negative, and not every idea is a good one. Therefore, all grouplets should be 'registered' with an organisers and that they should meet at least monthly to ensure that there aren't two grouplets doing the same work or doing work that is at cross purposes with the other.

Passionate people doing things that they are self interested in and supported by their peers can be a powerful combination in helping your company not only to innovate but also to ensure that it's internal processes are dynamic.

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