Most of us are familiar with Google’s “20 percent time” which is composed of their desire to allow employees to spend time on individual interests.  In education, this has morphed into “Genius Hour” and other innovative approaches.  The book How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg offers much more than an explanation of 20 percent time.  A company founded on “moonshot thinking,” Google is attempting to continually innovate and evolve in order to resist the “incremental improvement” approach that most big companies take.  How?

  1. Less emphasis on process. Usually as companies grow larger and more successful, they become more conservative (i.e. more likely to preserve their position) which they describe as organizational constipation.
  2. Understanding that change is revolutionary, not evolutionary.
  3. Emphasis on attracting and retaining great employees, which they label as “smart creatives.” It echoes Steve Jobs’ saying “you have to be run by ideas, not hiearachy.”
  4. Spend 80 percent of your time on 80 percent of your revenue.
  5. Affinity for the “start-up” model (small autonomous teams willing to risk).
  6. Moonshots and “roofshots” (improvements from within.
  7. TGIF meetings every Friday afternoon give all employees a chance to surface issues.
  8. Recognition that free information, continuous connectivity, and massively fast computing power have altered our environment.
  9. Intentional attention to forming their own company culture.
  10. Decisions made from data not from experts or veterans. But the data must be consulted!  “Decisions once based on subjective opinion and anecdotal evidence now rely primarily on data (151).”
  11. Emphasis on great products over marketing and PR.
  12. Giving the customer what he wants is less important than giving him what he doesn’t yet know what he wants.
  13. Don’t fixate on your competition. “If you focus on your competition, you will never deliver anything truly innovative (91).”
  14. The most important thing you do is hiring. “Hire them not for the knowledge they possess, but for the things they don’t yet know (102).”
  15. If you could trade the bottom 10 percent of your team for new hires, would your organization improve?
  16. The role of a leader is to be a communication router—direct the concerns to where they can best be answered. Leadership’s purpose is to optimize the flow of information (175).
  17. Information shouldn’t be hoarded as a means of control and power.
  18. “Power comes not from knowledge kept but from knowledge shared (175).” (Bill Gates)
  19. Make sure you would work for yourself.

I could take each one of those points above and compare to how school systems or Catholic schools or chanceries work.  Not worth repeating!  It is important to recognize that Google has become successful in a disruptive time (more information, faster computing, and continuous connectivity).  What are we doing?