Discover the 6 key pillars used by Google to drive a culture of innovation.
In the 'never normal' world being able to innovate and adapt to change is key to performance, productivity, growth and success.
As one of the top 5 companies on the planet, Google knows a thing or two about innovation.
So UNLEASH was thrilled to hear from them in this exclusive webinar, how they set their people agenda and deploy 6 key pillars that underpin a true culture of innovation right across the organization. This contributes to Google’s ongoing product development and market disruption of course, but also plays a key role in attracting, engaging and retaining top talent.
Watch on-demand to:
- Discover the 6 key pillars of innovation used by Google.
- Hear first-hand case study examples of how Google has embedded these pillars in practice.
- Explore what it takes to create a successful company culture.
- Put your questions live to Google’s in-house experts.
- Takeaway practical tips for making your own organization more innovative and adaptable for the future of work.
Drita Savasan, Global Strategic Lead for Google Workspace, began the session with the inside track on how Google has established broad elements of its culture and organizational design to support its focus on innovation. Nothing happens in isolation and none of it is an accident – everything is carefully created and curated to nurture its people’s creativity, commitment and talent. It is now particularly important for everyone to be able to ideate and innovate when they are no longer in same physical location in a post-pandemic remote/hybrid environment.
Savasan took us through each of the 6 pillars and Cathy Temple, Senior Director, People Partner at Google Cloud, helped illustrate how they work in practice in a wonderfully engaging fireside chat.
Pillar 1: Talent
Talent at Google refers to the entire lifecycle, from attracting and nurturing to not just retaining, but in their words ‘celebrating and encouraging‘. They hire for the company as a whole, not just one individual role. Interestingly, right from the outset they are considering transferable skills, mindsets, ways of thinking and acting that perpetuate its culture of innovation. As Savasan explained, “if someone asks the right questions, then they’ll work to solve the right problems”. Enabling new joiners (“Nooglers”) to find inspiration and pursue their dreams within the company starts to nurture this innovation culture from the very beginning of their Google journey. But it also aids retention too.
Pillar 2: Strategy
Within this pillar, Savasan explored how Google’s emphasis on the clarity of its objectives is key to its culture and ability to innovate. Communicating a clear vision for the organization is fundamental. Making decisions based on data helps to ensure focus and drive company growth. There is an incredible transparency around personal objectives from the most senior levels of leadership down through the organization. And Google is famous for its attention to detail in its OKRs. Something other companies can emulate, especially with solutions like Cloud Search, available as part of Google Workspace, which is used internally as an Intranet that enables openness and sharing online.
Google aims to maintain a mission that really matters to each and every one of us – and is very transparent in what that is” – Drita Savasan.
Pillar 3: Structure
Savasan and Temple also shared invaluable insights into how intentionally Google sets up its structure. The organizational design is deliberately simple. It avoids “unnecessary bureaucracy” with the goal of providing clarity and simplicity to employees. The organizational structure is then created to cultivate the behaviors the company values and encourages people to take risks (more on that later). Teaming is arguably something not given enough attention in most organizations, but Google uses data to understand what high performance really means in teams and tries to always build towards that. And finally, agility is critical to its culture. Hiring and nurturing people comfortable with certain levels of change means they are adaptable and help the company continuously evolve. This is all being considered across both remote, physical and hybrid workspaces which adds a layer of complexity, but also ultimately, effectiveness in today’s world of work.
Pillar 4: Empowerment
Under this pillar, Savasan talked about four key areas; transparency, voice, responsibility and equity. What stands out about Google’s approach here overlaps with the openness the company has around its objectives. In keeping with these levels of transparency, feedback to managers is visible to all and they must demonstrate improvement – or steps towards it. Weekly meetings for employees to put questions publicly to leadership provide them with a voice and places accountability to them on senior leaders. The notion of equity is often a part of a company’s values, so it was fascinating to hear how Google is truly living by this and giving everyone a voice.
Pillar 5: Innovation
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this section of the session generated huge numbers of questions and comments from the UNLEASH audience. “Project 20%” is an initiative at Google whereby employees can spend up to 20% of their time working on new projects or ideas that are not necessarily connected to their day-to-day role. There is a pre-defined list of projects that can be selected, but exploring new ideas is actively encouraged too. This was how, many years ago, Gmail was born!
Project 20% is never to the detriment of the day job, but it powerfully encourages that all-important focus on innovation.” – Cathy Temple.
Encouraging this exploration nurtures creativity without limits, but crucially, the cultural aspects of failing fast and psychological safety are key underpinnings here. So that time is not wasted on ideas that won’t work, the concept of failing fast is important. New ideas are put to the test early in their lifecycle and those that do not have promise are put to one side before too much time or resource is invested. And with that in mind, it also has to be OK for new ideas to fail. If people don’t have that sense of psychological safety then they will not volunteer their ideas or end up innovating at all. Savasan referred powerfully to wanting people to “play like children” but it has to be the right environment for them to take those risks, make mistakes and learn. Innovation can then be “implicit” within these safe spaces and teams.
Pillar 6: Work environment
Workplace is no longer a physical place and acknowledging this – and designing around it – is a huge part of Google’s ongoing success. Creating spaces both physical and online where collaboration can happen is key, but also places for people to “be their whole selves” so they can thrive at work. Burnout has been an important area of focus as the company believes it cannot nurture, celebrate and encourage its people without being concerned about their wellbeing.
The concept of wellness is very individual and personal, so there’s no such thing as a one size fits all approach. But at Google, we ensure people have resources and a platform for conversation about their wellbeing and work/life balance, so there is a continuous dialogue. And we actively encourage role modelling from leaders and managers too.” – Cathy Temple.
Being respectful of different time zones when collaborating on projects, setting delays for sending emails or internal messages, creating communities around common interests and being inclusive of different types of people whether extroverted or introverted for example, are just some of the ways Google considers wellbeing. The technology used internally like Google Workspace has become as important as the design and use of its physical offices and are designed to pay attention to these now business critical markers.
If someone is quiet in meetings, it doesn’t mean they can’t innovate or don’t have ideas – but they need the right environment or platform to contribute in a way that works for them” – Drita Savasan.
The 6 pillars revealed by Google share so much about the foundations that organizations can put in place today to nurture and build the innovation of tomorrow.
Watch On Demand
"*" indicates required fields