50 mins of Marissa Mayer
June 24, 2006 by bjornlee
“I just spent the past 50 mins of my life listening to this ETL video-cast of Google’s Marissa Mayer where she was sharing her lessons on innovation from her past 7 years of working experiences there.”. One of our contributors, Bjorn Lee will talk about the lessons he learned about innovation and technology from this video and how it inspire him on what he does with E27.
During these 50 minutes, i wrote down stuff, thinking of recapping the lessons by blogging and thinking as i write.
And I spent the next 10 thinking what to actually blog about.
I wasn’t going to just do a point-by-point summary of what she said. Thats not blogging, thats called reporting, (like how secretaries take down notes mindlessly during meetings)
So my key takeaway wasn’t thinking about her lessons in the context of innovation, but of culture. Specifically, building a conducive culture in any organization.
Its a no-brainer that we spend about 50 years of our life working. For educated people with access to key information troves such as the internet like yourself, we are the educated strata of society who have the choice to decide what life, or rather working life, we want to have for a significant portion of our lives. Our companies become our “families” for a good part of the day and as we are emotional creatures since we are humans, we tend to bring the same emotions we have from our work back to our homes and the rest of our non-working lives. Which also means its very important to work in a positive work environment because it extends naturally to your ENTIRE life. Its not just the job function you are performing, not just the money you are in for, but its a lifestyle you choose when you choose to work in one particular company.
Which is why I think Google is great. The same theories that they learnt and applied to innovation or from their own product development extends beyond their applications in the workplace and can be used for personal enrichment too. I will highlight some useful ones.
SHARING –The Good Type
Marissa talks about the case, based on an analogy from Tom Kelley’s book Art of Innovation, of a hypothetical employee telling all his colleagues this great idea he/ she has for the main purpose of taking personal credit. This sounds great, pple are sharing ideas in the organization but the lesson is there is good and bad sharing. While sharing ideas are very important in any organization, a company should emphasise the message that:
- no one shld get territorial over ideas because it doesn’t matter who thought of them in the first place
- cultivate the culture that no one and nobody has any control over ideas and are free to conceptualize, daydream and contribute
- focus on what the idea and how it can add value to their daily way of doing things
EXPERIMENTING — Because Innovation is not instant perfection
- When you build something, can you really learn quickly about yourself, learn quickly from your users such that you can iterate more efficiently the next time?
- Every time you make a mistake, you iterate out of it. Make more mistakes but make sure you learn and get smarter every time.
Google encourages failure. Because hope springs eternal when an organization has dreamers that act on their dreams and constantly try to make them realities. Nobody succeeds by doing the same thing all the time. You got to be different, which means you have to innovate, and when the correct approach towards innovation is adopted and this becomes something synoymous with the Google culture, pple join the company believing they can do the same experimenting and thats when the founder’s habits and beliefs become immortalized as the culture of the company.
Data is A-Political
TO eradicate office politics, take a very quantitative process towards decision-making and even suggestions. Numbers don’t lie, and using them to back up statements creates a meritocracy that is not based on relationships but your ability to use number-crunching abilities to support your thought process.
The QnA session took up half the 50 mins. I love Socratic dialogue style of learning by discussing, not preaching. Thats why I organize E27 events.
This guy asked what was one of the toughest questions for Marissa:
Q: What are some personal characteristics that made you successful?
- Passion to work
- Her Decision Process: Compile a list of the best decisions you have made and try to find out what is common between them. Especially when some decisions are really different from each other.
- Work with people smarter than you are so you learn.
- Challenge yourself by doing things that you are really not ready to do. Because you acquire new skill sets.You know your boundaries and you expand them.
Just a parting note, she had a really amusing gigglish laughter that is almost self-deprecating at times, endearing her to the crowd. 6 months away from Silicon Valley have almost made me forgot how much personality and charisma top executives like Marissa Mayer have compared to the many dour figures we have in Singapore where speakers seldom break out of their self-imposed shells once they step onto that stage to make a public presentation. Personalities like Marissa Mayer are icons and rallying points of a company culture.
They inspire. And thats another important hallmark of a good company culture.
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