To be the best, we must learn from the best. This is an idea we recently began highlighting in our series analyzing the business practices Google has adopted since its launch nearly 20 years ago. Since its creation, Google has been working incessantly to perfect every aspect of both owning and operating a company — a point we noted in our previous post about the innovative hiring practices used at Google.
Eric Schmidt, Google’s current Executive Chairman (and former CEO), chronicles the company's rise and the lessons he learned during this climb in his book, How Google Works. Schmidt addresses the ever-changing landscape of consumer culture and explains how all businesses must change with the new market. To succeed, we must begin attracting smart, innovative minds and allow these “creatives” (as he calls them) an open, transparent, and collaborative work environment in which to operate. How Google Works explains precisely how to do this.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
How Google Works is a detailed tell-all about the lessons Schmidt learned over the course of a decade as Google’s leading man. The book is filled with dozens of actionable insights that Schmidt conveys to his readers in extremely relatable terms. Schmidt takes his experiences, both positive and negative, and discusses them in-depth while also making them applicable to the majority of business owners regardless of industry or scale.
One major business insight that Schmidt argues for in the book is this: When running a business, ignorance is NOT bliss. The more transparent management is with its employees, the more successful the company will be. Lazlo Block, Google's SVP of People Operations, explains how Google exemplifies this mindset in an interview on Think with Google:
“A few weeks into every quarter, our Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, presents to all Googlers virtually the exact materials that were presented to our Board of Directors at their last meeting… We share everything, and trust Googlers to keep the information confidential.”
Why does this open, interactive, and trusting culture foster success? Because it's knowledge, not ignorance, that will generate change in your business.
Google prides itself on hiring some of the most creative minds the world has to offer. However, it would not matter who was hired if employees were not encouraged (or willing) to share their ideas. Google encourages their employees to share everything with everyone. They end every meeting with open Q&A's and encourage product feedback and suggestions from ALL employees, regardless of expertise or tenure.
We cannot ignore our greatest innovative resource — our employees. We need implement ways to encourage them to share their ideas. As Christian de Looper, a tech journalist, explains in Tech Times,
“The book [How Google Works] continues on to say that good ideas can come from anywhere. Because of that it is important that everyone in a company share their ideas. Individuals and small teams can have a huge impact on a company.”
Open, active workspaces filled with creative minds encourage spontaneity and teamwork. It is these two qualities that will foster innovation and excitement within your company.
As leaders, we are responsible for creating an open environment that continually provides information and education to our employees. The people who are integral in creating our products and implementing our strategies deserve to know the inner workings of our business. Contrary to some opinions, Google is actually known to be one of the most transparent companies around. Janet Cho quotes an interview with Google Executive Jonathan Rosenberg explaining,
“Most other companies operate with silos of information, where information flows down only to the people who need it. Google believes 'these are honest people trying to do a good job,' he said. 'You have really smart people. Give them goals. Communicate with them.'”
Share your ideas, your mission, and your progress or setbacks with those who work for you. It creates a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and common goals that will drive your employees at all levels. When our employees feel connected to our company’s mission, that connection fuels innovative ideas and creates hardworking, devoted workers.
Google didn’t become a tech giant without encountering trials or struggles. Even the best business leaders in the world had to learn as they grew — this is evident in Schmidt’s stories and lessons in How Google Works. Yet, what is clear is Schmidt’s (and Google's) message that enforced ignorance in business will get us nowhere. If we are honest and share our goals and developments with our staffs while simultaneously encouraging sharing between staff members, our businesses can only become more creative, innovative, and successful in maintaining growth.
Have your own ideas about how to build a collaborative work environment? Share them with us @EidsonPartners!