Monday, March 19, 2012

Innovation @ Google

Is Google still as innovative as it once was? Lately, this question has occupied the attention of the press and blogosphere.

The CSM lauds Google as an innovative company. The main thrust of the article is the race for innovation at the international level - how innovation varies in China vs. Europe vs. America. But the author implicitly endorses Google as being at the forefront of innovation.

James Whittaker, a former Google employee, thinks otherwise. He explains his decision to leave Google, saying, "The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovation. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus." Whittaker goes on to describe how Google missed the social-media boat, leaving Facebook to dominate the hottest internet trend.

As companies grow and mature, growth and innovation invariably slow. Managing a large organization requires formal processes and procedures, and bureaucracy creeps in. Has Google reached that point? What do you think?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Be Creative

Jonah Lehrer's article, How to Be Creative, is spot-on. Whilst the media likes to lionize so-called "creative types," the fact remains that creativity does not reside our genes. Rather, as Lehrer correctly observes, it is a skill that can be learned and developed like any other.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Lateral Thinking, invented by Dr. Edward de Bono, provides a set of techniques for spurring innovation. Moreover, anybody can learn these techniques with great success.

In this sense, creativity is like tying your shoes. No child is born with an innate gift for tying shoes, nor is one child a naturally better shoe-tier than another. Rather, it is a learned skill that children acquire through teaching, practice, and perseverance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Innovation Week is Just Around the Corner!

Join us at de Bono Consulting for our upcoming Innovation Week, March 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa!

We're holding end-user courses and trainer certifications in Edward de Bono's powerful creativity systems, Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking.

Can't make this session? Not a problem. We run Innovation Week periodically through the year - see our training calendar for full details.
  • May 8-11 in New York
  • June 12-15 in Des Moines
  • September 25-28 in Des Moines
  • November 13-16 in New York
  • December 4-7 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Thursday, March 08, 2012

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

Today, few people would describe AT&T as a particularly innovative (or for that matter, particularly admired) company. But once upon a time, Bell Labs was a bastion of innovation.

In fact, Jon Gertner describes Bell Labs in its heyday as "the most innovative scientific organization in the world." He points to a number of conscious decisions that fostered an innovative, collaborative environment:

1) Physical co-location - AT&T intentionally put various unrelated teams in the same place, which encouraged cross-disciplinary conversations. This interaction was further enhanced by the building architecture, which encouraged researchers to mingle.

2) Empowerment - Bell Labs gave its researchers the autonomy to pursue their ideas without senior managers breathing down their necks.

3) Time -AT&T realized that sometimes, it's important to let ideas percolate for a while. They gave time to their scientists, without worrying overmuch about instant results.

Gertner's article is quite good - you should read the whole thing. The one thing he fails to describe is Bell Labs decision-making processes. I'd like to know how they analyzed their projects and made decisions - did they employ a process akin to, for example, the Six Thinking Hats? How did Bell Labs evaluate their results? And ultimately, what led to their decline?