Google's innovation message: "Fail Quickly"

Guy Kawasaki talks about the Mantra as being key to communicating what your company/project/idea is about. A mantra is a 2 to 4-word succinct encapsulation of the core message. Gone are the laborious old mission statements of the 90's. Banished to the world of overly-expensive "close-your-eyes-and-fall-back-in-my-arms - that teaches us trust!" executive retreats. In their place - says Kawasaki - should be the matra.
A couple he quotes in his article:

Federal Express: "Peace of mind"

Nike: "Authentic athletic performance"
Target: "Democratise design"

Short, sharp, sweet
- and most importantly: Clear. Why? Becasue you can remem
ber them.

Today I hosted
a table at a breakfast roundtable discussion for senior executives in the telecoms media and technology space. Google provided the guest speaker and the event was run by Atos Consulting and Boyden Executive Search and it was attended by an impressive guest list from the sector (The Telegraph newspaper's Mobile division, the Financial Times, BAE Systems, NEC, Yell, World Television Group and more)

The guest speaker, the UK head of
Google Enterprise had been invited by Atos to talk about the role of innovation as a lifeboat in a sinking economy, and in doing so he came out with a cracking mantra describing Google's attitute towards internal innovation: "Fail quickly". Doesn't that just sum it up nicely?

At Google, they provide unbridled latitude to their
employees to innovate, they tolerate failure, and they pilot loads of smaller projects in order to quickly be able to decide whether or not to continue to devote resources to them. Rather than engraving all that on some corporate plaque what did the man say on the stage? "Fail quickly." Love it. And people were all a-twitter about it afterwards. Simple, memorable, clear.

60% and 6%
As an aside, another clear message that came out was the fact that not many of the organisations present were following that advice. The Q&A session was run by Scott McArthur (of McArthur's Rant) and he did a straw poll of the 40-odd senior execs in the room. Of that group, Scott's' poll revealed a funny set of numbers: 66% and 6%.
66% believed that innovation could add significantly to their bottom line in this downturn, but only 6% believed their companies to be innovative!

So the new question becomes: Can you become innovative? It almost becomes this: Innovation - nature or nurture? Some at the event believed that nature was the stronger argument. "It's all well and good for Google to say they're innovative - but they start out by exclusively hiring innovators. Our company has different requirements, so it's
not so easy for us.".

Clear messages from executive leadership stimulates innovation at Telegraph
Maani Safa, (pictured) the head of mobile at the Telegraph Media Group, told me that he believes the answer can be nurture. In his experience, under new leadership and in under two years, the area in the Telegraph Media Group where he works is unrecognisable from his perspective, in its approach to innovation.
"You can tell", he told me "...just from the partnerships we now have. I'm working on getting Telegraph content onto the big 4 handsets, and we've got partners coming to work on the project with us all the time. Google. Nokia. Adobe. They all come walking through the door. Two years ago, that never would have happened."

Maani was clearly a man exciting about and loving his job. A job in a very innovative space, but at an institution that might have been viewed by many - not that long ago - as unlikely to be labelled a hotbed of innovation. In his experience, the executive leadership sending a clear message transformed that part of his business. Clarity Rules.

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