Summary – Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine

Google stands out as a successful and innovative company, above all the internet-based companies. It distinguishes at IT and business architecture, experimentation, improvisation, analytical decision making, participative product development, and other relatively different forms of innovation.

A lot of what the company does is established in the legendary IT infrastructure, but technology and strategy at Google are inseparable and mutually absorbent. It makes hard to say whether the technology is the DNA of its strategy or the other way around.

As an example of management practice, Google may be the internet- era heir to companies like General Electric and IBM.  The search engine and a massive scalable IT infrastructure would be very hard and costly to emulate. But other attributes like the technology explicitly for innovation coupled with a well-considered organizational and cultural strategy can be used by many other business industries.

Google spent billions of dollars creating an internet-based operating platform and its own developing of technology which makes it possible to develop and to roll out the own new services or for its partners.

The main attributes of Google’s infrastructure are:

  • Scalability
  • An accelerated product-development life cycle
  • Support for third-party development and mashups

Google has the control over the evolution of its own innovative ecosystem. It can even claim a certain percentage of the value created within it. With every transaction performed through the Google platform, Google has continues awareness and access to all the information and is the center of the germinal revenue streams. Google does not need any market research: it has all the information in the database. A key ingredient of innovation at the company is the extensive, aggressive use of data and testing to support ideas.

Another important note is that Google’s organizational culture plays a key role. It has a unique well organization with a cultural strategy which attracts the most talented people. A big reason of Google’s success in the innovation is that there is budget innovation into the job descriptions. New ideas are generated by its employees.  Whatever their function may be, one of their work activities is based on innovation. This is keeping the employees work hard to innovate ideas at Google.

Furthermore, there is a possibility of eliminate friction from the development process. Any engineer has a chance to create a new idea. It can be e-mailed for new products, processes and improvements in the company. The idea must be passed through a qualification process. Changes can be made very effectively and quickly.  Every employee can comment also on these ideas. This makes the approach of the innovation very improvisational.  The employees have a certain influence to create, to change, and to develop an idea.

Cultivate a taste for failure and chaos is a strategy which Google implements. The more products, the better even if it confuses.  Many products are bound to fail, the company wants to run and move too quickly instead of being cautious and do little. The creativity of the products comes out of people bumping into each other and not knowing where to go. That is where chaos comes when reflecting on innovation at Google. These aspects makes Google standing out and successful as an innovator where the costs are hard to emulate. Other aspects can be easily used by almost every business.

Arvin Moensi – 349430


Iyer, B., and Davenport, T.H. 2008. Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine. Harvard Business Review 86(4) 58-68.


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