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How to Run a Successful Company: Lessons from Google Execs

how-google-works coverWe hear advice all the time about how the digital and mobile age have changed the ways that business succeeds – forever.  Previously untouchable businesses have been challenged by new types of companies when the Internet has removed long-protected barriers to entry.  Think Amazon.  Think  Uber and Lyft.   Think Orbitz and Expedia.  My goodness, Think Google!

We are urged to participate, not own.  We are cautioned to provide “goodness” as defined by the customer in the moment.   We are reminded that “the moment” changes from day to day to minute to minute from device to app to location.  We are scolded when trying to control the conversation about our own brands and products and services.    The old ways are slow.  Change is an imperative.  Failing fast is a virtue.

In this fabulous and brief SlideShare deck from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, he says that the answer to business transformation is in your people.  Not just smart, creative people, but people who can work well in small teams that think fast, innovate continually and fail often.  Google calls them “Smart Creatives.”

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“We learned that the only way for businesses to consistently succeed today is to attract smart creative employees where they can thrive at scale.

Attracting these Smart Creatives is not simple. They are, after all, really smart.  They will want to work in places that have an authentic commitment to market, customer and employee success.  Google advises that you must first know and document what is important to you as a group of employees – what you care about, how you work, how you collaborate.  And then, of course, live those things honestly and truly.

For Google, the answer is in small, crowded teams that are constantly poked and prodded by each other and by new ideas from within and without.   The teams work on ideas that are rooted in a strong foundation, and generally guided by the principles of the organization and market need.  Famously, Google thinks that business plans are stupid.  (I don’t disagree in many ways, although the discipline required to plan for success is not stupid.) 

Innovation at Google is inherent in the culture because the whole culture – from decision making to communication to team dynamic to go-to-market strategy – is designed to foster innovation.   “You can’t tell people to be innovative. But you can let them,” the presentation claims.

This advise, Schmidt says, is not just for high tech companies or entrepreneurs.  “All you need is a big idea,” the deck proclaims at the end.   “Ask yourself, what COULD be true in five years?”

Schmidt’s slide share deck, which is a promo for his book of the same name (How Google Works), has been viewed more than 1 million times since October 2014.   Despite that transparency, I’m not sure we’ve seen a tidal shift in other companies transforming to operate like Google, although it may be true that many more of us are asking these same good questions about moving our businesses forward in the digital age.

Certainly, asking those open-ended questions, thinking big, failing fast, and building a great team of smart, creative, motivated innovators… these are ways to move your business up and forward to the top right corner, and Stay #TopRight.

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