Innovation = Managed Chaos

I’ve been enjoying Reid Hoffman’s podcast series; Master of scale. All the episodes are fascinating, but the most recent episode with Eric Schmidt particularly caught my interest. It covers the topic of how you set-up for innovation. You should listen, it’s 30-minutes short. But to whet your appetite…

From Schmidt’s experience at Google, and now Alphabet, he believes innovation comes from allowing chaos to emerge throughout your organisation, but providing enough guidance to channel all the good stuff. There are 3 things to consider:

  1. Let ideas flow: the freedom to think up new ideas shouldn’t be the luxury granted to just those sitting within the ‘innovation department’. With the expertise built up from years in a job, those on the front-line are just as capable, if not more capable, of spotting new ideas. Your organisation needs to be set-up in a way to give everyone the opportunity to come up with ideas, then give them the resources to try and bring their idea to life.
  2. Make rapid decisions: with new ideas emerging throughout the organisation, it would be easy to waste a load of time deciding which are the best ones to pursue. The key here is emphasising making, over planning. You could spend days discussing whether something is going to work, or you could spend the same amount of time (or less) making something and testing if it will work. Think Google Sprints. The quicker you can get insights from customers as to whether an idea is working pursuing, the quicker a decision can be made.
  3. Know when to scale: figuring out the right time to push resources behind something to make it big could be the difference between success and failure. One way to decide: take customer feedback and back it up with data. The more insight you have over the performance of an idea you’re playing with, the better informed your decision of when to scale.

One final nugget: the key to the Google ‘Smart Creative’ — Persistence + Curiosity.