28 March 2015

How Google Works – Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg

Contents

“Just go talk to the engineers”
The Finland plan
When astonishing isn’t
Speed
The “smart creative”
A fun project for the two of us        
Culture – Believe Your Own Slogans
Keep them crowded
Interviewing is the most important skill
Schedule interviews for thirty minutes
Have an opinion
Friends don’t let friends hire (or promote) friends
Urgency of the role isn’t sufficiently important to compromise quality in hiring
Disproportionate rewards
Trade the M&Ms, keep the raisins
If you love them, let them go (but only after taking these steps)
Google’s Hiring Dos and Don’ts
Treat your career like you are surfing
Plan your career
Statistics is the new plastics
Read
Know your elevator pitch
Go abroad
Decisions – The True Meaning of Consensus
Decide with data
Beware the bobblehead yes
Know when to ring the bell
Make fewer decisions
Meet every day
“You’re both right”
Every meeting needs an owner
Bill Gates: Spend 80 percent of your time on 80 percent of your revenue
Have a succession plan
The World’s Best Athletes Need Coaches, and You Don’t?
Communications – Be a Damn Good Router
Default to open
Know the details
It must be safe to tell the truth
Start the conversation
Repetition doesn’t spoil the prayer
How was London?
Review yourself
Email wisdom
Have a playbook
Relationships, not hierarchy
What is innovation?
Understand your context
The CEO needs to be the CIO        
Focus on the user…
Think big
Set (almost) unattainable goals
70/20/10
20 percent time
Ship and iterate
Fail well
It’s not about money
Ask the hardest questions

Just go talk to the engineers”

Focus on the user. They believed that if they created great services, they could figure out the money stuff later.

They felt that attracting and leading the very best engineers was the only way for Google to thrive and achieve its lofty ambitions. And they really meant engineers: The founders stopped Eric’s first attempt to hire the estimable Sheryl Sandberg, now Facebook’s COO, because she wasn’t an engineer. (Sheryl went on to spend over six very successful years at Google.) As the company grew, the founders relented in this single-mindedness, but only a little bit. To this day the rule of thumb is that at least half of Google employees (aka Googlers) should be engineers.

For years, Google’s primary tool for managing the company’s resources was a spreadsheet with a ranked list of the company’s top 100 projects, which was available for anyone to see and debated in semi-quarterly meetings. These meetings were part status update, part resource allocation, and part brainstorming. The system was not very scientific: Most projects were prioritized on a scale of 1 to 5, but there was also room on the list for projects categorized as “new / far out” and “skunkworks.”

They weren’t engineers in the traditional definition of the role. Yes, they were brilliant coders and system designers, but along with their deep technical expertise many of them were also quite business savvy and possessed a healthy streak of creativity. Coming from an academic background, Larry and Sergey had given these employees unusual freedom and power. Managing them by traditional planning structures wouldn’t work; it might guide them but it would also hem them in.

The Finland plan

One of the biggest reasons for our success, though, is that the plan we delivered to the board that day in 2003 wasn’t much of a plan at all. There were no financial projections or discussions of revenue streams. There was no market research on what users, advertisers, or partners wanted or how they fit into nicely defined market segments.

When astonishing isn’t

Three powerful technology trends have converged to fundamentally shift the playing field in most industries. First, the Internet has made information free, copious, and ubiquitous – practically everything is online. Second, mobile devices and networks have made global reach and continuous connectivity widely available. And third, cloud computing has put practically infinite computing power and storage and a host of sophisticated tools and applications at everyone’s disposal, on an inexpensive, pay-as-you-go basis.

Speed

The result of all this turmoil is that product excellence is now paramount to business success—not control of information, not a stranglehold on distribution, not overwhelming marketing power (although these are still important). There are a couple of reasons for this. First, consumers have never been better informed or had more choice.

The second reason product excellence is so critical is that the cost of experimentation and failure has dropped significantly. You see this most dramatically in high-tech industries, where a small team of engineers, developers, and designers can create fabulous products and distribute them online globally for free. It’s ridiculously easy to imagine and create a new product, try it out with a limited set of consumers, measure precisely what works and what doesn’t, iterate the product, and try again. Or throw it out and start over, that much smarter for the experience.

As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, says: “In the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”

But experimentation costs are lower for manufactured goods as well. One can model prototypes digitally, build them with a 3-D printer, market test them online, adjust their design based on the resulting data, and even raise production funds online with a prototype or slick video.

The “smart creative”

Great companies such as IBM, General Electric, General Motors, and Johnson & Johnson offer management tracks for people with the greatest potential, whereby these stars rotate in and out of different roles every two years or so. But this approach emphasizes the development of management skills, not technical ones. As a result, most knowledge workers in traditional environments develop deep technical expertise but little breadth, or broad management expertise but no technical depth.

They are not hemmed in by role definitions or organizational structures; in fact, they are encouraged to exercise their own ideas. They don’t keep quiet when they disagree with something. They get bored easily and shift jobs a lot. They are multidimensional, usually combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair.

She is analytically smart. She is comfortable with data and can use it to make decisions. She also understands its fallacies and is wary of endless analysis. Let data decide, she believes, but don’t let it take over.
She is business smart. She sees a direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success, and understands the value of all three.
She is competitive smart. Her stock-in-trade starts with innovation, but it also includes a lot of work. She is driven to be great, and that doesn’t happen 9-to-5.
She is user smart. No matter the industry, she understands her product from the user or consumer’s perspective better than almost anyone. We call her a “power user,” not just casual but almost obsessive in her interest. She is the automotive designer who spends her weekends fixing up that ’69 GTO, the architect who can’t stop redesigning her house. She is her own focus group, alpha tester, and guinea pig.
A smart creative is a firehose of new ideas that are genuinely new. Her perspective is different from yours or ours. It’s even occasionally different from her own perspective, for a smart creative can play the perspective chameleon when she needs to.
She is curious creative. She is always questioning, never satisfied with the status quo, seeing problems to solve everywhere and thinking that she is just the person to solve them. She can be overbearing.
She is risky creative. She is not afraid to fail, because she believes that in failure there is usually something valuable she can salvage. Either that, or she is just so damn confident she knows that even in the event that she does fail, she can pick herself up and get it right the next time around.
She is self-directed creative. She doesn’t wait to be told what to do and sometimes ignores direction if she doesn’t agree with it. She takes action based on her own initiative, which is considerable.
She is open creative. She freely collaborates, and judges ideas and analyses on their merits and not their provenance.
She is thorough creative. She is always on and can recite the details, not because she studies and memorizes, but because she knows them. They are her details.
She is communicative creative. She is funny and expresses herself with flair and even charisma, either one-to-one or one-to-many.Not every smart creative has all of these characteristics, in fact very few of them do. But they all must possess business savvy, technical knowledge, creative energy, and a hands-on approach to getting things done. Those are the fundamentals.

Smart creatives can be found in every city, in every school, in every class and demographic, and in most businesses.

A fun project for the two of us

Our book is organized to mirror the development stages of a successful, growing business or new venture.

Culture – Believe Your Own Slogans

The reason a bunch of employees who had no direct responsibility for ads, or culpability when they were lousy, spent their weekends transforming someone else’s problem into a profitable solution speaks to the power of culture.

But it wasn’t Google’s culture that turned those five engineers into problem-solving ninjas who changed the course of the company over the weekend. Rather it was the culture that attracted the ninjas to the company in the first place.

Most companies’ culture just happens; no one plans it. That can work, but it means leaving a critical component of your success to chance.

The smart approach is to ponder and define what sort of culture you want at the outset of your company’s life. And the best way to do that is to ask the smart creatives who form your core team, the ones who know the gospel and believe in it as much as you do.

Most companies neglect this. They become successful, and then decide they need to document their culture. The job falls to someone in the human resources or PR department who probably wasn’t a member of the founding team but who is expected to draft a mission statement that captures the essence of the place. The result is usually a set of corporate sayings

Think about someplace where you’ve worked. Now, try to recite its mission statement. Can you do it? If so, do you believe in it?

Something like: “Our mission is to build unrivaled partnerships with and value for our clients, through the knowledge, creativity, and dedication of our people, leading to superior results for our shareholders.”24 Boy, that sure checks all the boxes, doesn’t it? Clients—check; employees—check; shareholders—check. Lehman Brothers was the owner of that mission statement—at least until its bankruptcy in 2008.

Keep them crowded

top-of-the-line espresso machines. These things usually leave visitors with the correct impression that Googlers are awash in luxuries, and the mistaken impression that luxury is part of our culture. Giving hardworking employees extra goodies is a Silicon Valley tradition dating back to the 1960s, when Bill Hewlett and David Packard bought a few hundred acres of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains and turned it into Little Basin – a camping and recreational retreat for employees and their families.

Interviewing is the most important skill

The most important skill any business person can develop is interviewing.

Determine a candidate’s merit in the context of an artificial, time-constrained interview. That calls for a unique and difficult skill set, and the simple truth is most people are not good at it.

Conducting a good interview requires something different: preparation. This is true regardless of whether you’re a senior executive or a fresh associate. Being a good interviewer requires understanding the role, reading the résumé, and—most important—considering your questions.

Ask challenging questions that push the candidate.

Your objective is to find the limits of his capabilities, not have a polite conversation, but the interview shouldn’t be an overly stressful experience. The best interviews feel like intellectual discussions between friends.

Reuse questions across candidates, so you can calibrate responses.

Rather than offering her a chance to regurgitate her experiences, allow her to express what insights she gained from them.

Generic answers to these questions indicate someone who lacks insight on issues. You want the answers to be interesting or at least specific.

First impressions work both ways.

While you want to ask thoughtful questions, you should also identify the candidates who ask thoughtful questions. People who ask good questions are curious, smarter, more flexible and interesting, and understand that they don’t have all the answers.

The only way to get good at interviewing is to practice.

You can practice the most important skill you can possibly develop, get paid for doing it, and since you will most likely not be the person’s manager, you won’t have to live with the consequences of a bad hire. They ignore us. Getting people to interview is like pulling teeth.

performance metrics, including how many interviews they conducted, reliability (it’s amazing how many people think it’s OK to cancel interviews at the last minute, or not even show up), and quality and promptness of their feedback (quality of feedback declines precipitously after forty-eight hours; our best interviewers schedule time to enter their feedback right after the interview).

We are hiring for passion, remember, and passionate people will often have an exuberant online presence. This demonstrates a love of the digital medium, an important characteristic in today’s world.

Schedule interviews for thirty minutes

Most interviews will result in a no-hire decision, so you want to invest less time in them, and most good interviewers can make that negative call in a half hour.

There’s no time for small talk or meaningless questions. It forces people, including (especially!) you, into a substantive discussion.

Each additional interviewer after the fourth increased our “decision accuracy” by less than 1 percent.

Have an opinion

From the interviewer’s standpoint, the goal of the interview is to form an opinion. A strong opinion. A yes or no.

Leadership: We’ll want to know how someone has flexed different muscles in various situations in order to mobilize a team. This can include asserting a leadership role at work or with an organization, or even helping a team succeed when they weren’t officially appointed as the leader.• Role-Related Knowledge:

General cognitive ability:

Googleyness: We want to get a feel for what makes a candidate unique. We also want to make sure this is a place they’ll thrive, so we look for signs around their comfort with ambiguity, bias to action, and collaborative nature.

Friends don’t let friends hire (or promote) friends

Another part of the interviewing process that most companies screw up is letting the hiring manager make the hiring decision. The problem with this is that the hiring manager will probably be the new employee’s manager for only a matter of months or a year or two;

Besides, in the most effective organizations, who you work for matters a lot less than who you work with.

If you want to hire someone, the decision needs approval from a hiring committee, whose decisions are based on data, not relationships or opinion.

Four or five is a pretty good number. The best composition promotes a wide variety of perspectives, so aim for diversity: in seniority, in skills and strengths.

The hiring manager is not entirely powerless in a committee-based process; she (or her recruiter) can participate in committee meetings, and she gets to decide whether or not to move a candidate from interview process to offer process, meaning she has veto power but not hiring power.

Senior management would review every offer.

The process was designed to optimize for quality, not efficiency, and for control, not scale.

A hiring packet needs to be both comprehensive and standardized.

If something isn’t in the packet, it doesn’t get considered. This forces people to be thorough in constructing a hiring packet. You can’t omit information from the packet and then bring it up.

Class rank is another important detail for recent grads; because of grade inflation, an A may no longer be worth that much, but a top class ranking is still the best. The packet also needs to be well formatted and easy to read quickly; for example, the candidate’s best or worst answers should be highlighted for easy reference. But not everything should be formatted: A candidate’s original résumé should be included as is, so everyone can see the typos and formatting errors.

all packets include statistics on each interviewer’s past scores—including number of interviews, range of scores, and mean—so committee members can factor into their decision-making which interviewers grade higher and which clump their scores in the middle of the bell curve.

Promotion should also be via a committee rather than a top-down management decision.

With committees, the rejection doesn’t come from an individual but from the more faceless committee. This small detail can have a surprisingly big calming effect on promotion rates.

Urgency of the role isn’t sufficiently important to compromise quality in hiring

Hiring committees making final decisions on candidates can review a packet within 120 seconds.

Disproportionate rewards

The urgency of the role isn’t sufficiently important to compromise quality in hiring.

Smart creatives today may not share many characteristics with professional athletes, but they do share one important thing: the potential for disproportionate impact.

The compensation curve should start low. You can attract the best smart creatives with factors beyond money: the great things they can do, the people they’ll work with, the responsibility and opportunities they’ll be given, the inspiring company culture and values, and yes, maybe even free food.

Trade the M&Ms, keep the raisins

Pay outrageously good people outrageously well, regardless of their title or tenure. What counts is their impact.

The best way to retain smart creatives is to not let them get too comfortable, to always come up with ways to make their jobs interesting.

Jonathan’s solution was to rotate a series of APMs through the job in six-month stints, serving as his de facto chief of staff.

If you love them, let them go (but only after taking these steps)

Focus your retention efforts on the stars, the leaders, and the innovators (not necessarily the same people).

Can have a big ripple effect, as they often inspire their followers to leave too. Because people seldom leave over compensation, the first step to keeping them is to listen. They want to be heard, to be relevant and valued.

The best smart creatives often want to leave so they can go start something on their own. Don’t discourage this, but do ask them for their elevator pitch.

Then they obviously aren’t ready to go. In that case, we usually advise them to stick around and continue to contribute at the company while they are working on their idea.

Google’s Hiring Dos and Don’ts

Hire people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you are.

Don’t hire people you can’t learn from or be challenged by.

Hire people who will add value to the product and our culture.

Don’t hire people who won’t contribute well to both.

Hire people who will get things done.

Don’t hire people who just think about problems.

Hire people who are enthusiastic, self-motivated, and passionate.

Don’t hire people who just want a job.

Hire people who inspire and work well with others.

Don’t hire people who prefer to work alone.

Hire people who will grow with your team and with the company.

Don’t hire people with narrow skill sets or interests.

Hire people who are well rounded, with unique interests and talents.

Don’t hire people who only live to work.

Hire people who are ethical and who communicate openly.

Don’t hire people who are political or manipulative.

Hire only when you’ve found a great candidate. Don’t settle for anything less.

Treat your career like you are surfing

When people are right out of school, they tend to prioritize company first, then job, then industry. But at this point in their career that is exactly the wrong order. The right industry is paramount, because while you will likely switch companies several times in your career, it is much harder to switch industries.

Fortunately, the tectonic forces driving the Internet Century mean that a lot of industries are great places to surf.

The most interesting industries are those where product cycle times are accelerating, because this creates more chances for disruption and so more opportunities for fresh talent. But even businesses like energy and pharmaceuticals, where product cycle times are long, are ripe for massive transformation and opportunity.

Plan your career

Here are some simple steps to creating a plan:Think about your ideal job, not today but five years from now. Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? How much do you want to make? Write down the job description: If you saw this job on a website, what would the posting look like? Now fast forward four or five years and assume you are in that job. What does your five-years-from-now résumé look like? What’s the path you took from now to then to get to your best place?Keep thinking about that ideal job, and assess your strengths and weaknesses in light of it. What do you need to improve to get there? This step requires external input, so talk to your manager or peers and get their take on it. Finally, how will you get there? What training do you need? What work experience?By the way, if your conclusion is that you are ready for your ideal job today, then you aren’t thinking big enough. Start over and make that ideal job a stretch, not a gimme.

Statistics is the new plastics

Stats are sexy. Deal with it. The sexiest jobs in the Internet Century will involve statistics, and not just in a parallel geeky fantasy world.

But I’m not a numbers person!” we hear some of you whining, especially you in the back with the magenta shirt. Don’t worry, there is hope. Asking the questions and interpreting the answers is as important a skill as coming up with the answers themselves. No matter your business, learn how the right data, crunched the right way, will help you make better decisions. Learn which questions to ask the people who are good with numbers and how to make the best use of their replies.

Read

Most organizations have an impressive archive of written information. Find the best of it and read it.

One of the best, easiest ways to get ahead in a field is to know more about it. The best way to do that is to read. People always say they don’t have the time to read, but what they are really saying is that they aren’t making it a priority to learn as much as they can about their business.

Know your elevator pitch

Go abroad

Go live and work somewhere else.

Decisions – The True Meaning of Consensus

When it comes to making decisions, you can’t just focus on making the right one. The process by which you reach the decision, the timing of when you reach it, and the way it is implemented are just as important as the decision itself. Blow any of these, and the outcome will likely be negative. And since there’s always another decision to be made, the impact of a poorly executed decision-making process can reverberate past that one issue.

Decide with data

A bias toward data is a great way to kill the death-by-PowerPoint syndrome. How many meetings have you been in where the first dozen or so slides are full of words, and the person stands up there and repeats the words?

Beware the bobblehead yes

Bobblehead yessers are different from your classic “yes-men” because, unlike them, bobbleheads have a nasty tendency to complain and whine and not do or support the very thing to which they just agreed as soon as they walk out of the meeting.

Getting everyone to say yes in a meeting doesn’t mean you have agreement, it means you have a bunch of bobbleheads. Many leaders strive for “consensus-driven” decisions, but they fundamentally misunderstand the meaning of consensus.

Consensus is not about getting everyone to agree. Instead, it’s about coming to the best idea for the company and rallying around it. Reaching this best idea requires conflict. People need to disagree and debate their points in an open environment, because you won’t get buy-in until all the choices are debated openly. They’ll bobblehead nod, then leave the room and do what they want to do.

If you are in charge, do not state your position at the outset of the process. The job is to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, regardless of their functional role, which is harder to achieve when the top dog puts a stake in the ground.

Using data can be helpful to get everyone to weigh in, since it’s not personal. Be especially aware of the quiet people; call on the ones who haven’t spoken up yet. They may be dissenters who are afraid to disagree with you in public (but need to get over that fear), or they may be of the shy but brilliant type. Or perhaps they truly have nothing to say, in which case maybe they shouldn’t be at the meeting in the first place. One technique is to throw out a few “stupid softballs” that let people dip their toe in the water of disagreeing with the boss. (“I think we should all pour hydrochloric acid on ourselves. Thoughts?”)

The right decision is the best decision, not the lowest common denominator decision upon which everyone agrees. And it’s not always your solution.

Know when to ring the bell

This conflict-based approach works only if it is managed by a single decision-maker who owns the deadline and will break a tie. Often there is too much data, or the data is inconclusive.

This is the most important duty of the decision-maker: Set a deadline, run the process, and then enforce the deadline.

Trial-and-error approach: If you’re not sure if a course of action is right, the best thing you can do is try it out and then correct course.

But some behavioral economists believe that a bias for action can be deleterious, since it can favor hasty, poorly thought-out decisions, and in some situations we agree. In a negotiation, for example, Eric’s “PIA” rule can help get the best outcome: Have patience, information, and alternatives. P is especially important. You want to wait as long as possible before committing to a course of action. This is true in fields beyond business too (or should we say “pitches”): Soccer goalies who are facing penalty kicks can double their save rate by simply doing nothing at the moment the shooter kicks the ball, rather than following the common bias-for-action practice of guessing in advance to which side the kick will go and diving in that direction. In that way, goalies could learn from pilots, who are trained not to act instantly in emergencies but to take a moment to assess the situation before deciding what to do.The job of the decision-maker, then, is to get the timing just right. Exhibit a bias for action, to cut off debate and analysis that is no longer valuable, and start moving the team to rally around the decision. But don’t be a slave to a sense of urgency. Maintain flexibility until the last possible moment.

Make fewer decisions

Know which decisions to make and which to let run their course without you.

Meet every day

There is one thing that leaders can still control, and that is the company’s calendar. When faced with a critical decision, there is real signaling value in using your convening power as a leader to hold regular meetings. If the decision is important enough, the meetings should be daily.

“You’re both right”

There is a mistake technical and scientific people make. We think that if we have made a clever and thoughtful argument, based on data and smart analysis, then people will change their minds. This isn’t true. If you want to change people’s behavior, you need to touch their hearts, not just win the argument.

There is a simple trick to getting this right. When ending a debate and making a decision that doesn’t have 100 percent support, remember these three words: “You’re both right.” To emotionally commit to a decision with which they don’t agree, people have to know that their opinion was not only heard, but valued.

Decision-maker must ensure that everyone who was involved does one of two things: disagree but commit, or escalate publicly. If it’s the latter, then the escalator must let the decision-maker know the reasons for her objections, and how and to which higher-up she plans to escalate.

Every meeting needs an owner

People complain about meetings and how they are a great waste of time, but in fact a well-run meeting is a great thing. It’s the most efficient way to present data and opinions, to debate issues, and yes, to actually make decisions.

Meetings should have a single decision-maker/owner.

The decision-maker should be hands on. He or she should call the meeting, ensure that the content is good, set the objectives, determine the participants, and share the agenda (if possible) at least twenty-four hours in advance. After the meeting, the decision-maker (and no one else) should summarize decisions taken and action items by email to at least every participant—as well as any others who need to know—within forty-eight hours. Even if a meeting is not a decision-making meeting—for example it’s designed to share information or brainstorm solutions—it should have a clear owner.

Meetings are not like government agencies—they should be easy to kill.

Meetings should be manageable in size. No more then eight people, ten at a stretch.

Attendance at meetings is not a badge of importance.

Timekeeping matters.

If you attend a meeting, attend the meeting.

Bill Gates: Spend 80 percent of your time on 80 percent of your revenue

Leadership teams often underestimate how long it takes for revenue from a new product area to ramp up. That shiny new stuff can be much more interesting than the boring old core business stuff, but it’s the core stuff that pays the bills, and if you make a mistake there, you probably won’t be able to recover.

Have a succession plan

You have to focus on your core business. You have to love it.

The World’s Best Athletes Need Coaches, and You Don’t?

It’s not that the coach is better at playing the sport than the player, in fact that is almost never the case. But the coaches have a different skill: They can observe players in action and tell them how to be better.

Communications – Be a Damn Good Router

Here’s a way to think about corporate communications: Picture a twenty-story building. You are on a middle floor, say the tenth, standing on a balcony. The number of people on each floor decreases as you go up. The top floor is occupied by just one person, while the bottom floor, aka the “entry level,” has hordes of people. Now imagine you are standing out on a balcony when the person above you—let’s call her your “boss”—yells something and drops a few documents. You catch them, being careful not to let them flutter away in the wind, and take them back inside to read. There’s some good stuff in there, and you carefully parse out a few bits that you think the people on the ninth floor should see, given the carefully pre-scripted boundaries of their jobs. So you go back out to the balcony and drop a sheet here and a paragraph there to your team below, who consume them as if they were the proverbial cold waters to a thirsty soul.

In this world, information is hoarded as a means of control and power.

Approach to spreading information may have been successful when people were hired to work, in the Internet Century you hire people to think.

Default to open

The company’s intranet, Moma, includes information on just about every upcoming product, for example, and the weekly TGIF meeting usually features presentations by product teams.

OKRs are another great example of transparency.

Know the details

What’s going on in your job? What issues do you have? Tell me about that deliverable you owe me.” This has a couple of results: It helps Eric keep on top of the details of his business, and it helps him know which of his executives are on top of the details of their business.

Hands-off approach to leadership doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to know the details.

Snippets are like weekly status reports that cover a person’s most important activities for a week, but in a short, pithy format, so they can be written in just a few minutes or compiled (in a doc or draft email) as the week goes on.

It must be safe to tell the truth

You must make it safe to ask the tough questions and to tell the truth at all times, even when the truth hurts.

Start the conversation

Some of our best leaders have taken unusual steps to facilitate. Urs Hölzle wrote and published a “user manual”… about himself. Anyone on his team (which numbers a few thousand) can read the manual and understand the best way to approach him, and how to fix him if he breaks. Marissa Mayer held regular office hours

Repetition doesn’t spoil the prayer

Overcommunication done wrong leads to a careless proliferation of useless information, an avalanche of drivel piling into already overwhelmed inboxes.

If you repeat something twenty times and people don’t get it, then the problem is with the theme, not the communications

Sometimes the presentation of the idea has to be varied to grab (or re-grab) attention.

When you avoid distribution lists and instead actually pick the right people for the note, they are more likely to read it.

It’s like the difference between junk mail and a hand-addressed card.

How was London?

The problem with the typical staff meeting is that it is organized around functional updates, rather than around the key issues facing the team, so you may end up spending too much time on things that don’t matter (do you really need a weekly update on everything?) and not enough on things that do. This structure also reinforces the organizational boxes around people—Pam is in quality control, Jason is the sales guy—rather than creating a forum

The trip report makes the staff meeting more interesting.

No matter what a person’s job is, they should be encouraged to have opinions about the business, industry, customers and partners, and different cultures.

Review yourself

One of Eric’s most basic rules is sort of a golden rule for management: Make sure you would work for yourself.

Email wisdom

1. Respond quickly.

2. When writing an email, every word matters, and useless prose doesn’t

3. Clean out your inbox constantly. When you open a new message, you have a few options: Read enough of it to realize that you don’t need to read it, read it and act right away, read it and act later, or read it later (worth reading but not urgent and too long to read at the moment). If you read the note and know what needs doing, do it right away. Otherwise you are dooming yourself to rereading it, which is 100 percent wasted time.

4. Handle email in LIFO order (Last In First Out). Sometimes the older stuff gets taken care of by someone else.

5. Remember, you’re a router.

6. When you use the bcc (blind copy) feature, ask yourself why. The answer is almost always that you are trying to hide something, which is counterproductive. The only time we recommend using the bcc feature is when you are removing someone from an email thread. When you “reply all”.

7. Don’t yell.

8. Make it easy to follow up on requests. When you send a note to someone with an action item that you want to track, copy yourself, then label the note “follow up.”

9. Help your future self search for stuff.

Have a playbook

1:1s—match the lists

The manager should write down the top five things she wants to cover in the meeting, and the employee should do the same.

The mutual objective of any 1:1 meeting should be to solve problems.

1. Performance on job requirements
a. Could be sales figures
b. Could be product delivery or product milestones
c. Could be customer feedback or product quality
d. Could be budget numbers

2. Relationship with peer groups (critical for company integration and cohesiveness)
a. Product and Engineering
b. Marketing and Product
c. Sales and Engineering

3. Management/Leadership
a. Are you guiding/coaching your people?
b. Are you weeding out the bad ones?
c. Are you working hard at hiring?
d. Are you able to get your people to do heroic things?

4. Innovation (Best Practices)
a. Are you constantly moving ahead… thinking about how to continually get better?
b. Are you constantly evaluating new technologies, new products, new practices?
c. Do you measure yourself vs. the best in the industry/world?

Relationships, not hierarchy

The business should always be outrunning the processes, so chaos is right where you want to be. And when you’re there, the only way to get things done is through relationships. Take the time to know and care about people. Note the little things—partner’s and kids’ names, important family issues (these can be easily recorded in your contacts).

Don’t forget to make people smile. Praise is underused and underappreciated as a management tool. When it is deserved, don’t hold back.

What is innovation?

Innovation entails both the production and implementation of novel and useful ideas.

For something to be innovative it needs to offer new functionality, but it also has to be surprising. If your customers are asking for it, you aren’t being innovative when you give them what they want; you are just being responsive. That’s a good thing, but it’s not innovative. Finally, “useful” is a rather underwhelming adjective to describe that innovation hottie, so let’s add an adverb and make it radically useful.

Google also releases over five hundred improvements to its search engine every year. Is that innovative? Or incremental? They are new and surprising, for sure, but while each one of them, by itself, is useful, it may be a stretch to call it radically useful. Put them all together, though, and they are: The Google search engine radically improves from year to year because of the power of all these improvements. Like five hundred tiny steps forward, collectively they get you somewhere.This more inclusive definition—innovation isn’t just about the really new, really big things—matters because it affords everyone the opportunity to innovate.

Understand your context

Google[x] has a simple Venn diagram that it uses to determine if it will pursue an idea. First, the idea has to be something that addresses a big challenge or opportunity, something that affects hundreds of millions or billions of people. Second, they have to have an idea for a solution that is radically different from anything currently in the market. We aren’t trying to improve on an existing way of doing something, rather we want to start over. And third, the breakthrough technologies that could bring that radical solution to life have to be at least feasible, and achievable in the not-too-distant future.

Before there can be innovation, there needs to be the proper context for innovation. This is usually found in markets that are growing quickly and full of competition (lots of companies are working on automated cars; most of them are actually car companies!). Don’t look for empty space and then be lonely; it is much better to use an innovative approach to become a player in a space that is or will be large. This may seem counterintuitive.

The CEO needs to be the CIO

As Udi told us when recounting his Yahoo experience, “Innovative people do not need to be told to do it, they need to be allowed to do it.” In other words, innovation has to evolve organically.

The Internet provides everyone with the tools of creation; moreover, it is an ideal testing ground, allowing for prototypes to be rolled out and meaningful data to be collected in a fraction of the time needed before.

Innovative ooze forms easily in a start-up environment, when the culture is still fresh and the entire company has an us-against-the-world mentality. People who join start-ups crave risk; it’s part of what attracts them to the venture.

Focus on the user…

No one had performed a detailed financial analysis. The product was obviously great for the user, so we all knew that launching it was the best business decision.When Instant launched, it had only a modest effect on revenue, but Google has launched plenty of other features with a more significant financial impact.

Google knows that in the Internet Century user trust is just as important as dollars, euros, pounds, yen, or any other currency. Product excellence is the only way.

Focus on the user… and the money will follow. This can be particularly challenging in environments where the user and customer are different, and when your customer doesn’t share your focus-on-the-user ethos.

Think big

Too many people are stuck in the old, limited mindset. “You aren’t thinking big enough” – later replaced by the Larry Page directive to “think 10X” – helps fix that. It encompasses the art of the possible… and the impossible.The obvious benefit of thinking big is that it gives smart creatives much more freedom.

There are other, more subtle benefits to thinking big. Big bets often have a greater chance for success by virtue of their size: The company can’t afford to fail. On the other hand, when you make a bunch of smaller bets, none of which are life threatening, you can end up with mediocrity.

Thinking big is actually a very powerful tool for attracting and retaining smart creatives.

We often hear people around Google talk about “10Xing” their job, even though most of their jobs are far removed from the audacious projects the company has become famous for. These are salespeople, lawyers, financial folks, all of whom are inspired by the company’s prevalent attitude to shoot for the moon. Thinking big is not only a very powerful recruiting and retention tool, it’s contagious.

Set (almost) unattainable goals

Set the objectives too low and you are obviously trying to make yourself look good by “miraculously” exceeding them at the end of the quarter.172 But set them too high and you run the risk of failure. The trick is to find the sweet spot by creating objectives that look difficult but are actually easily doable. The perfect scorecard at the end of the quarter and year is one that is full of 100 percent marks.

First, a good OKR marries the big-picture objective with a highly measurable key result.

A good OKR should be a stretch to achieve, and hitting 100 percent on all OKRs should be practically unattainable. If your OKRs are all green, you aren’t setting them high enough. The best OKRs are aggressive, but realistic. Under this strange arithmetic, a score of 70 percent on a well-constructed OKR is often better than 100 percent on a lesser one.

Third, most everyone does them.

Fourth, they are scored, but this scoring isn’t used for anything and isn’t even tracked. This lets people judge their performance honestly.

Fifth, OKRs are not comprehensive; they are reserved for areas that need special focus and objectives that won’t be reached without some extra oomph. Business-as-usual stuff doesn’t need OKRs.

70/20/10

70 percent of the projects were related to the core businesses of search and search advertising, about 20 percent were related to emerging products that had achieved some early success, and about 10 percent involved completely new things that had a high risk of failure but a big payoff if successful.

Ten percent also works because creativity loves constraints.

Instead he got a digital camera, rigged it to a tripod, and set the contraption up on a table in his office. He pointed the camera down at the table, turned on a metronome to pace his movements, and started snapping pictures while Marissa Mayer turned the pages. Based on this crude prototype, they were able to estimate what it took to digitize a book, and made some calculations that the audacious project was indeed feasible. Google Books was born. (Sergey later employed a similar approach to see if Google’s Street View project was feasible. He took a drive around town with a camera and snapped a photo every few seconds.

20 percent time

20 percent time is more like 120 percent time, since it often occurs on nights and weekends.

The first step toward bringing a good idea to fruition is to build a team of people who are committed to it, and while we may be clueless, your peers probably are not. Our constant advice to anyone who wants to launch a 20 percent project is to start by building a prototype, because that’s how you get people excited about the project. Coming up with an idea is pretty easy. Getting a few of your colleagues to join your project and add their 20 percent time to your 20 percent time is a lot harder. This is where the Darwinian process begins.

The most valuable result of 20 percent time isn’t the products and features that get created, it’s the things that people learn when they try something new.

Ship and iterate

Create a product, ship it, see how it does, design and implement improvements, and push it back out. Ship and iterate.

The hardest part of ship and iterate is to iterate. It’s easy to rally a team to ship a new product, but much harder to get them to stick around and do the hard work to make that product better. One form of motivation we found to work well was negative feedback.

The right criticism is motivating, but too much has the opposite effect.

To decide which efforts are winners and which are losers, use data. This has always been the case, but the difference in the Internet Century is how quickly data is available and how much of it there is.

In practice, ship and iterate means that marketing programs and PR pushes should be minimal at launch.

Not to launch crummy products and depend on the Google brand name to get early user traction. The products should be great at what they do, but it’s OK to limit functionality at launch.

Fail well

Figure out some way to let people experience the product, and use the data to make the product better.

Learn from your mistakes: Any failed project should yield valuable technical, user, and market insights that can help inform the next effort. Morph ideas.

It’s not about money

We don’t provide any monetary incentive for 20 percent projects for the simple reason that we don’t need to: It may sound corny, but the reward comes from the work itself. Several studies have shown that extrinsic rewards don’t encourage creativity, and in fact hinder it, by turning an inherently rewarding endeavor into a money-earning chore.

Ask the hardest questions

Forgo conventional wisdom, crank up that imagination, and ask yourself what could happen in your industry in the next five years. What could change most quickly,

And what will not change at all? Then once you have an idea of what the future could hold, here are some more hard questions to consider.How would a very smart, well-capitalized competitor attack the company’s core business? How could it take advantage of digital platforms to exploit weaknesses or skim off the most profitable customer segments? What is the company doing to disrupt its own business? Is cannibalization or revenue loss a frequent reason to kill off potential innovation? Is there an opportunity to build a platform that can offer increasing returns and value as usage grows?Do company leaders use your products regularly? Do they love them? Would they give them to a spouse as a gift? (This obviously isn’t applicable in a lot of cases, but it’s a powerful thought experiment.) Do your customers love your products? Or are they locked in by other factors that might evaporate in the future? If they weren’t locked in at all, what would happen? (Interesting corollary to this question: If you forced your product people to make it easy for customers to ditch your product for a competitor’s, how would they react? Could they make your products so great that customers want to stay, even if they don’t have to?)When you go through your pipeline of upcoming new major products and features, what percentage of them are built on unique technical insights? How many product people are on the senior leadership team? Does the company aggressively reward and promote the people who have the biggest impact on creating excellent products?Is hiring a top priority at the C-suite level? Do top executives actually spend time on it? Among your stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise at another company?Do your decision-making processes lead to the best decisions, or the most acceptable ones?How much freedom do employees have? If there is someone who is truly innovative, does that person have the freedom to act on his ideas, regardless of his level? Are decisions on new ideas based on product excellence, or profit?Who does better in the company, information hoarders or routers? Do silos prevent the free flow of information and people?