Last Friday I had a remarkably open schedule so I grabbed a couple of my Strategic Planners and attended a talk by Roy Gilbert, Director of Global Consumer Operations and Policy for Google. Roy was in town to speak at the kick-off of an event called "In One Weekend" at the University of Cincinnati. In One Weekend is a competition among teams to create a new start-up business in 48 hours. I did not enter the competition this year (one 48-hour competition a Summer is enough), but did manage to gather some great insights from Gilbert's talk, which are fitting for The Challenge Dividend blog.
Roy Gilbert has a pretty interesting background. He was in Navy ("the first military person Google every hired"), launched GMail, and built up a 1,000-person India operation for Google. Here's some of the most interesting stories he shared:
- Google borrowed a concept from Intel for its quarterly business reviews. Specific goals are set up in advance, and at the quarterly meetings, progress is measured. The expectation is that teams hit 70% of their goals. Anything more than 70%, and they probably didn't stretch enough in setting them. Anything under 70%, and you need to get your butt in gear. Lesson: Set stretching goals and measure your progress.
- Google's internal online personnel directory not only shows a photo and job for each person, but also shows their business goals, and their history of performance against those goals. Lesson: Everyone's goals should be public.
- Failure is celebrated for its ability to uncover new lessons. For example, when the company made Google Earth public, there were so many people downloading it that Google's search servers were slowed ("we broke the Internet"). This issue was cheered not for the sign of Google Earth's popularity, but because it taught the company a valuable lesson about server capacity. Lesson: Celebrate failure, but learn and don't repeat it.
- Gilbert shared the personal story of when he and his wife were debating taking a job in India for Google. They had a newborn baby and were a little wary about living in a developing country. But Roy's wife brought up a great point: "If we don't go, we will always look back and wonder what it would have been like." Lesson: Make sure you look to the downsides of a challenge not taken.
- Finally, Gilbert shared a story from a professor at the Wharton School of Business. This professor had conducted research with the most successful leaders in business. He found that about 70% of their "training" came from work assignments in which they were thrown into a role where they were "over their heads." Lesson: Put yourself in positions where you're more challenged than you think you're ready for.
My thanks to Roy Gilbert and the folks at In One Weekend for a great session and lessons.