‘After September 11th, one of our researchers, Krishna Bharat would go to 10-15 news sites everyday looking for information about the case. And he thought, why don’t I write a program to do this? So Krishna, who’s an expert in artificial intelligence, used a web crawler to cluster articles. He later emailed it around the company. My office mate and I got it, and we were like, this isn’t just a cool idea for Krishna. We could add more sources and build this into a great product.
That’s how Google News came about.’
Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products & User Experience (as quoted in Fast Company, March, Page 79).
I like this story for a number of reasons:
1. Breakthrough ideas, insights and products often come about by accident. This is not to say that many stage-gate, formal processes are not useful but their importance is over-rated. What is more important is to have creative, passionate people that are willing to try new things.
2. Creative organisations like Google (rated the world’s most innovative company) are places and spaces where not only great ideas are produced but there is a culture of idea receptivity. In my work with leaders I constantly stress the need to encourage idea production at the same time as idea openness. An open door policy does not always translate to an open mind policy.
3. Google also has a policy of encouraging its engineers to spend 20% of their time on working on things that interest them. The actual percentage is not important nor is how it is implemented of much more value is the notion that people work at their creative best when they are passionate about what they do.
What are you passionate about?
4. Creativity is also found at the most unexpected of places, people and times. The lesson? Don’t make any assumptions about who you should invite to a meeting for example. Have the experts mix with the newcomers and see what happens.