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Google workshop Johara 4

11 February 2014


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Google hosted an interactive workshop to identify to the participants what tools the search giant uses to brainstorm and come up with new initiatives and ideas. 
Peter Baron Director of Communications and Public Relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Google, presented a host of apps and smart technology that Google has launched and showed how things like Google Field Trip, Google Translate and Google Now are helping people in real life.

He shared insights into what goes behind closed doors in strategy sessions at Google. He said that Google founders have a simple mandate for their team, which is that of you want to improve something, don’t think about improving it by 10% - think about improving it by 10 times.

The 10x project, as Baron referred to it, symbolises the culture of Google, which is all about technology and innovation, he said.

Barron insisted that Google famously ignores the HIPPO in the room while taking decisions. HIPPO is management jargon for ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion, which means that an organisation’s decision-making process naturally veers towards the highest paid individual.

He gave the example of the blue colour in Google’s ad results, and said that when someone at Google noticed a discrepancy in the colour of search results and the ad links, they did not go to the HIPPO in the room for choosing a colour. Instead, they scientifically tested out 40 different shades of blue, and arrived at the purplish-blue that we now see.

“Considering the scale of our business internationally, more people clicked and it impacted revenues,” he noted.

Another strategy that Baron shared was that about Google making big bets. He gave the example of Gmail, which was launched on April 1, 2004. “People thought it was a joke as we made (almost) unlimited storage available,” he said. “The big bet there was that the cost of storage was going to fall really dramatically – and that did happen,” Baron noted. That big bet positioned Google as the undisputed leader in email service, something that has worked really well for it.

“The next big bets were investments in YouTube and Android, at a time when they looked like strange things to get into. But video and mobile have been critical, as is clear now,” he said.

He underlined Google’s culture of celebrating failure, maintaining that learning from failure is as important as success itself, and said that Google emphasises ‘failing fast’.

“Some of our projects have been huge global successes and some embarrassing failures. It creates controversy at times as we switch off some projects before their natural death,” Barin said, but insisted it was the right strategy to move out of businesses that weren’t showing potential.

In addition, he explained how Google has evolved over the years. He said that a little after Google was launched, there were about 234,000 references to Google in 1998. “What we were trying to do then was to direct you to 10 blue links,” Baron said. Today, there are more than 6.3 billion Google Search results displayed for the word ‘Google’. “Today, we’re no longer taking you to 10 blue things, but are trying to take you directly to the answer of what you’re looking for,” Baron said on how things have evolved at the company over the past 15 years.

“In 1998, our principle was: Be really good at one thing,” he said. “We were very good at desktop search,” he noted, but added that, had they stuck to what they were good at, they would have been outdated by now. “Desktop search has been taken over by other developments,” he said, referring to the more pervasive mobile search and technology. “The point is extremely clear – the world has moved to accessing media via mobile devices,” he noted.

“In 2010, Eric Schmidt, Google founder, spoke at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, about Google becoming a mobile-first company. We’re moving towards mobile, and what Larry Page describes as the perfect search engine – which will know what exactly do you need and give you exactly that,” he said.

He demonstrated Google Mobile Voice Search, and said that “the machine is learning how to deal with the human query.”
“What next? Will Google allow me to talk to my pet, or diagnose a disease remotely?,” asked an audience member.

Baron didn’t answer that precisely, but alluded to “wearable devices, ubiquitous Internet, machine learning, the Internet of connected things, etc.”