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Brief Published: 27 May 2015

Google: Innovation Culture

By 2020, half of the global workforce will be millennials

Hiring the right people, embracing experimentation and encouraging creativity at all levels is the secret to Google's famous culture of innovation.

Kim Wylie, change and transformation lead at Google's enterprise software project Google for Work, outlined several Google-endorsed strategies to improve workplace culture during a talk last week at London department store Selfridges. The event was part of Selfridges' Work It campaign, which looks at how the nature of work is changing.

Key strategies include:

  • Embrace Flexibility: By 2020, half of the global workforce will be millennials, said Wylie. "These are people who don't even understand the concept of being offline." Millennials expect to work any time, anywhere – see Digital Nomads for more.

  • Hire Right: "Hiring the right people is the single most important thing any organisation can do," said Wylie. At Google, every candidate is interviewed by at least four Google employees and is assessed for four main attributes: role-related knowledge, general cognitive ability, leadership and "Googliness" – which Wylie defined as the ability to collaborate and try new things without fear of failure.

  • Fail Fast: Google employees are encouraged to test their ideas quickly and gather feedback to decide whether they're worth pursuing. Even if an idea doesn't work, it can often be the starting point for something that does – for example, Google's doomed social networking tool Google Buzz paved the way for Google Plus, Wylie said.

  • Focus on Feedback: At Google, feedback is considered a gift. Employees' key performance indicators (KPIs) are shared internally, while managers are annually reviewed using an annual "upwards feedback" survey – the results of which are available to all Google staff. Even the company's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, answer questions from employees in weekly Thank Google It's Friday (TGIF) meetings. 

Work It at Selfridges runs until mid-June. For more on how to kickstart workplace creativity, see The Living Workspace and Developing Innovation Culture.