June 1, 2010

Google | Grad School to Scale

Are People Important?

Much has been written about human business in the last couple of decades. Companies have attempted to make their work spaces more enjoyable and compassionate. Some have workout areas, flex time, child care and even some allow you to bring your dog to work.

I attended Carleton University’s Spring Leadership Luncheon and A.D. Dunton Award Presentation in Ottawa yesterday. It was great to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while and meet a whole bunch of leaders in Ottawa from all walks of business.

From Ottawa to Google

This year’s A.D. Dunton Award recipient was Dr. Shona Brown who is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Google and former Carleton grad. She is very sharp and very funny. She talked a bit about her career and journey but gave us a snapshot of life at Google Campus in Mountainview, California.

Some highlights:

If you want to work at Google, be prepared to jump head first in to the team mentality. Very few decisions are made by a single person but rather by committee. Dr. Brown calls it controlled chaos. That includes when you are hired.

Your Ideas Are Encouraged

Brown confirmed that Googlers can devote 20% of their work time developing their own ideas. That’s one day a week or as she outlined, most block off a week here and a week there to get away from their day job to flush things out.

If the idea is strong enough, they may get one or two colleagues to help take it further. If the idea gets to the next step and through some stringent hurdles, resources are applied to see where it can go.

No Hiding

She added that Google is “a well financed graduate school to scale. It looks for passionate critical thinkers and hires smart generalists."

Often, senior management at Google gather staff and field open and tough questions. As Brown says “There’s no ducking”. If you build an open collaborative space, the bosses can’t hide in their office

Always In Beta

Google is a huge company that lives in beta but does not do it void of the bottom line. There is constant experimentation and in that, spectacular failures. Dr. Brown said one issue she wishes her company would do better is shutting down ideas that aren’t successful. The downside of living in beta.

What human things can you apply to your company that seem to work for one of the largest tech firms on the planet?

@knealemann
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photo credit: google
 
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