A recent NY Times article revealed some of the inner workings of Google’s X-lab. It is a fascinating read. For those of us who’s been keeping track of Google for years, it comes as no surprise. Rather it is a delightful example of how one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies stays innovative.
X-Lab is where Google’s team of dreamer s and doers develop the future. Today you’ll find work on self-driven cars, space elevators or self-ordering refrigerators. This is where Google’s top 100 moonshots happen. While some critics view this as being outside the core business, “investing in speculative projects is an important part of Google’s DNA”, states one spokeswoman. Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin is even clearer, stating“…we hope (this) will graduate to important key businesses in the future”.
Now reading about Google and X-Lab is fascinating. But the bigger question is; What have you got? When you look at the average firms’ innovation capability. When you look at the average firms’ innovation processes; how wildly creative and innovative are these? How wildly creative and innovative is your firm?
OF course, most simply aren’t. Sadly so. Most firms focus too much on what scholars Govindarajan and Trimble call “Manage the present”. While they should evenly balance what the authors call “Selectively abandon the past” and “Create the future”.
The two repeatedly state “Business organizations are not designed for innovation, they are designed for ongoing operations. And there are deep and fundamental conflicts between the two”.
Yet, Google’s X-lab shows one glimpse of how one company is organizing itself for more innovation. Google’s innovation philosophies are more complex than this, but the X-lab is one highly visible effort – and it is one most firms could – and should – copy with urgency and pride.