The current issue of Wired Magazine (Feb 2013) has a very nice article about “big ideas,” which includes some thoughtful words with Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and now CEO on our favorite topic, innovation.
“I worry that something has gone seriously wrong with the way we run companies. If you read the media coverage of our company, or of the technology industry in general, it’s always about the competition. The stories are written as if they are covering a sporting event. But it’s hard to find actual examples of really amazing things that happened solely due to competition. How exciting is it to come to work if the best you can do is trounce some other company that does roughly the same thing? That’s why most companies decay slowly over time. They tend to do approximately what they did before, with a few minor changes. It’s natural for people to want to work on things that they know aren’t going to fail. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change.
“So a big part of my job is to get people focused on things that are not just incremental. Take Gmail. When we released that, we were a search company—it was a leap for us to put out an email product, let alone one that gave users 100 times as much storage as they could get anywhere else. That is not something that would have happened naturally if we had been focusing on incremental improvements.”
Since we’re really interested in breakthrough innovations and how to create them, we found these comments quite welcome. The entire article is well worth reading.
And amazingly, even though it is indeed the current issue that’s on the newsstand now, you can already read it online right here.