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Smart Creatives: The Tao, not the “How,” of Google’s Success

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There’s a new book out called “How Google Works: The rules for success in the Internet Century” by Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman and former Google SVP of Products Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle. There are some wonderful insights in the book that can help anyone create, develop and build a business. But,  I think the book title is wrong. It shouldn’t be “How Google Works – but Why Google Works. And here’s why:

SMART CREATIVES

The authors discuss what they call ‘Smart Creatives.” These are people that can combine technical expertise, business acuity and creativity. They aren’t silo’ed one-trick-pony thinkers. You know the type I’m talking about? The creatives that insist on doing it their way to stay true to their art? Or the bean-counters that think that stock art rocks and asks you to add bullet points and excel spreadsheets to your presentations?

 Smart Creatives are different. They have the ability to use both sides of their brain – and see both sides of the management vs. marketing war. I discussed this concept with Al & Laura Ries in the article “Left, Right and No-Brainers…The Management vs. Marketing War.”

ARE THEY THE FUTURE?

With virtually all the world’s information accessible online, mobility devices and cloud computing, which can put the power of a supercomputer in anyone’s pocket, business-building power has shifted from top down management companies to individuals and small teams within a company. When you give the Smart Creatives all the latest technology tools and give them “freedom,” they can blow you away with new ideas, innovations, and products in an amazingly quick amount of time. But, they are typically feared and restrained because of risk perceptions. As the authors note, “the problem is most companies are run to minimize risk, not maximize freedom and speed.” Decisions and power lie in the hands of the few – not the many. Especially not the smart creatives. How to change that?

CREATE THE ENVIRONMENT

First, recruit, develop and retain smart creatives. They will always have the biggest impact in any company. Second, make your business a love affair. The people that work with and for you love the company because of the culture. Your company stands for something. Something good. Then you have to live and breathe those fundamental principles.

STUPID STRATEGY – WTF?

This was one of the funnier parts of the book. Having wasted a large part of my business life in presentations and reviewing 100+ page business plans that never seemed to come to fruition – and always thinking it was a waste of time and stupid – I was gratified to see that when co-author Jonathan Rosenberg came to work for Google one of the first things he did was to produce a formal MBA-style business plan. Larry Page called it “stupid.” And it is.

Big, formal business plans will scare away smart creative. They know that they hamper freedom. And they’re stupid.

BUT A FAILURE TO PLAN IS A PLAN TO FAIL

Nah. Not really. Not anymore. Business is moving too fast. The plan will be out of date before it’s written. And most certainly before anyone actually reads it or sits through another 110 slide power point presentation with 23 bullets on each slide.

HOW TO PLAN NOT TO PLAN?

It’s not the plan that counts. It’s the fundamental foundation of principles and values that your company stands for. You need to create a strategic foundation. According to Schmidt and the fellows, a good foundation has three main pillars; 1.) Superior product with technical superiority, 2.) Optimize your venture for growth – not revenue, 3.) Know your competition, but don’t follow it.

BACK TO THOSE SMARTIES

One of the most insightful parts I came away with, was not where to find or hire Smart Creatives, but the two things that are crucial for them to flourish:

1. Consensus – This word bugs me like no other except … compromise. Their take on consensus is this. It doesn’t mean everyone agrees. Watering down your products, services, ideas until you get everybody on the same page and agree is probably the biggest reason for dysfunction and morale in businesses today.

What consensus means to the authors and smart creatives –is it’s about everyone being heard and then rallying around the best answer. And that gets us to…

2. Innovation – The leader of the company can be the CEO but what they really most need to be is a CIO (Chief Innovation Officer). And the CIO’s charge is not to ordain innovation. Innovation can’t be ordained. And it can’t be mandated. You can’t tell people to be innovative. But you can allow them to be if you let them be.

TAKE-AWAY

These are things that the authors learned the hard way at Google. In fact, they mention that at the beginning they,

“quickly learned that almost everything we thought we knew about managing business was dead wrong.”

The book is titled “How Google Works: The rules for success in the Internet Century,” and it actually does explain how Google works.  But it also, to me, explains…

WHY GOOGLE WORKS

The rapid, radical evolution of business in the internet age requires Smart Creatives. Ones who have the freedom, the environment, culture, tools, respect and the guts to dream of things not dreamed – and make those dreams come true.

(Geez, was that a little smarmy – that ending? it’s been a while since I wrote about a book instead of talking about mine – The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heard: True Stories of Triumph.” Now back to my book in progress, “Forget the Cheese … Who Crushed My Nuts.” (Nuts=Ideas)

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