On 15 June 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary announced the addition of 154 new words from “401(k)” to “yada yada” — and the verb form of the brand name Google.
It is hard to believe then that on 7 September 2008 Google celebrated 10 years since its incorporation in, where else, a garage in that cradle of invention: Menlo Park, California. Google has grown from being a research project at Stanford University to a $16.59 billion company with around 20,000 employees.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
But, business statistics apart, the impact that Google has had on our lives is most striking. More than half of all Internet search traffic passes through Google’s eponymous homepage. Tens of millions of people use Google’s email service. And services such as Google Earth and Blogger have now become industry standards. All in all, Google runs more than 100 services and products — including the latest Chrome Web browser — through, according to some estimates, a gargantuan network of close to half a million servers.
Google’s 10th anniversary is a good time to reflect on one question: How do large companies such as Google continue to innovate? How does Google manage to churn out products and services at such frequent intervals — once a month on average — and with largely positive results?
It is easy to explain away innovation and invention in small start-ups. By definition, new ventures work with great freedom. But Google has long ceased to be a conventional start-up in terms of size.
It is in spirit that the company continues to maintain its innovative edge. While founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin continue to lead the company, it is far-fetched to assume they are behind every new development. The answer, perhaps, lies in statement made at a seminar given at Stanford two years ago by Google vice-president Marissa Mayer.
Mayer said that, according to her estimates, half the new product launches at the company was a result of the “Innovation Time Off” that is extended to employees. Employees are encouraged to use this time off — 20% of work time — to work on projects of individual interest. Popular products such as Gmail, Google News, Orkut and Adsense are all babies of Innovation Time Off.
This, coupled with an informal work culture and state-of-the-art work environment, keeps Google’s smart people happy — in the office and innovating.
What can we learn from Google’s corporate culture? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org