Recap WITI Orange County - September 17
The evening began with an innovative introduction from our sponsor Dell. Lenka Vanek, Sr Director Software Development R&D provided insight into what innovation means at Dell and in the real world.
Lenka provided a recurring theme of the evening that was later expanded upon by Sean Larkin at Google. Thinking about the problem is more important compared to finding a solution. Albert Einstein said "if you give me 20 days to solve a problem, I will spend 19 days to define it."
Michael Dell thrives on innovation and at 19 years old he understood a problem. Listen to your customers, focus on real time problems, and provide innovative ways to solve it.
Innovation can come from many possible areas and can't be controlled. Like Steve Jobs said "you cannot control innovation, just like how you cannot control weather or herding cats. However it is important to nurture innovation."
Lenka had the privilege of mentoring students in Bangladesh that were solving problems. Due to floods in these areas, men worked in the cities while many women and children lacked fresh food and resources. These students were constructing floating beds for these areas to help the women and children get what they needed to survive. Innovation can really make a difference in the world!
There is a great example of how innovation resembles a jigsaw puzzle from the book "The Myths of Innovation". Nurture innovation by building off the work of others. Not knowing what piece will be last, build on the latest, change it, and create something new.
Sometimes when we climb that foggy mountain, we are not sure how long it will take to reach the top, and then suddenly you take a step, the fog diminishes and that last piece is magic. This is why we keep climbing mountains.
Ideas never stand alone and we can innovate at any tie.
Sean Larkin has been known as the Architect of possibility and he was going to provide us with a glimpse into the innovative world at Google.There is a culture at Google that is to inspire you while at the same time making you feel uncomfortable. Remember the Larry Page quote? "If you are not doing some things that are crazy, then you're doing the wrong things." Within this culture there are principles and pillars of innovation based on Jonathan Rosenberg, Executive at Google that created 17 principles of innovation. A few of Sean and Melissa Mayer's favorite principles are:
- Morph/don't kill ideas
- Share everything
- Never fail to fail
- Users come first, not the money
- Focus on users, not competition
Failure is not a bad thing and the process should be celebrated not the end result. AND it is a good thing to thrive in chaos!
When Google hires someone there is a committee behind the decision not just from 1 hiring manager. They perform data analysis on the entire process. The hiring committee's decision is also analyzed and even screened through after a decision has been made. Hiring someone for 1 single role can be a disservice to the person and the organization. They attract top talent and move out of their way. No amount of technology is going to cause innovation to happen. Ideas come from everywhere and do not function well if it is from th top down only. Someone working at Google for less than 10 years might have 17 different positions with several management changes throughout their career. Thrive in chaos!
Anytime, anywhere, any device is Google's motto. Ever circle around a document with your team and finalize that final final final version 4 document? It can get very confusing saving and re-saving all that documentation. Collaboration is important and with Google Docs all changes are saved. No need to hit the "save" button. Share everything is a mindset that provides everyone on your team to be on the same page in any time zone around the world.
Data driven analysis is an important principle of innovation at Google. How much data has Google collected? They saved every query that anyone has every submitted and there are more than 100 billion queries submitted each month. There are 30 trillion URLs in their index and have had over 25,000 video conferences with 80 endpoints. They conduct over 10,000 experiments with select user groups and make 500 changes to the algorithm each year. That is more than 1 change per day. The more data better the analysis.
How do they do it? With very big massive data centers. There are continuous white papers being shared on the proper techniques they practice around Big Data. They have evolved from a Google File System, Planet Scale file system, big table structured storage, to now a Borg-infrastructure that manages all of it called The Omega.
What is a moonshot? Sean answered that question with multiple examples of current and upcoming technologies while explaining examples as to why certain ones did not pass the test.
Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction. Instead of 10% gains, they aim for 10x improvements. The combination of a huge problem, plus a radical solution, and the breakthrough technology that might just make that solution possible is the essence of a Moonshot.
Google Executives value the experiment, not the result. For example, there is Project A that will cost $1 million and will come back with 100% guaranteed profit success and then there is Project B that will cost $1 billion with a profit of 10% success. Innovation is with Project B. Sean shared videos on different moonshots that have been created.
The most well-known and most recognized moonshot by the public is the Google glass. The inspiration actually came from kids being at concerts that recorded the entire show on their phone or tablet. The computer would be able to look at your eye to see what to focus on, blink and take a picture.
Google is creating a moonshot called "Project Bloom" that will bring WIFI capabilities to the entire world. They found that only 2 billion people have the connectivity to Internet access. With 7 billion people in the world there is a 5 billion opportunity to have everyone in the world have this capability!
And then everyone's favorite moonshot was the cool self-driving 2 seat car. Because this vehicle can only reach the maximum speed of 25 miles an hour, the requirements from the government was only 1 sheet of paper, not the usual book length that a regular car requires. This is important to note because they did not wait until this was a true assimilation of a car. Google needed to get the innovation out there, collect the data, and scale up.
It was fascinating to see in the video the faces on people's first reactions riding in a driverless car. They would just tell the car where they wanted to ride to and off they went! If you are in Mountain View you will see these starting to emerge more and more. The video addressed several problems like being more productive during travel time, gives people more time to converse with family, and offered the idea we might get into less accidents? Due to recent studies they have found that majority of automotive accidents are due to human error not mechanical failures.
There is a moonshot called Project Iris that can measures the glucose levels just by powering 3 levels of tiny chips and an antenna. What will they think of next?
Did you ever think a kite could be a moonshot? Google purchased a company that created an electric motorized kite that flies up 1,000 feet and circles in the air generating power. This innovation would cost 1/10 of what it costs to build a windmill. Imagine, this be could put in the ocean, dessert, basically anywhere around the globe.
Fail forward fast was another recurring theme of the evening. Do not wait until a project is perfect. The market moves too quickly for you to wait. Earn the love of your customers and come up with real time solutions.
How do you know when you have a moonshot? Did it pass the toothbrush test? The toothbrush test has to be something that occurs for you at least 2 times a day. The moonshot has to focus on fixing the problem.
Google allocates funding into 3 areas:
- 70% goes to back into advertising as that drives 90% of revenue
- 20% emerging technologies
- 10% science experiments
How does an idea get approved?
Going back to the beginning, you have to focus on the problem and really understand the need. Creating a Pretotype vs prototype is very important to innovation success. Pretotype is a non- functional mock-up of something. It asks the question would we use it? Should we build it? Pretotype proceeds prototype.
Sean provided a humorous example of the pretotype to the PalmPilot. When asked if they could get on their calendar, Jeff Hawkins would take out this block of wood from his shirt pocket and using a toothpick (eventually moving to yellow sticky notes) would re-enact entering information. Minimum viable product (MVP) can be built in minutes when you have a pretotype.
Innovators need ideas and data is king. The 1st step is to create pretotype instead of spending time on a product type. To sum up Innovation at Google:
- Data beats opinion. Ideas have low credibility and data has more credibility.
- Simple beats complex.
- Commitment beats committees. Doing beats talking.
- Spend time on your idea. Grow it.
- Take vision into reality.
"Incrementalism is innovations worst enemy" - This is not a path to get to innovation. Change the playing field and that changes the game people are playing. Don't take baby steps.
"It is tremendously hard to get teams to be super ambitious. Most people have not been educated in this moonshot way of thinking. They tend to assume that things are impossible instead of looking at real world physics and figuring out to what is actually possible." We think to ourselves why try? Google Magic is not having all the answers. Children are trained more in the moonshot way of thinking and do not have the constraints adults possess.
Google is always thinking of the impossible...that is innovation the Googleway.