Thursday, May 24, 2012

Business lessons from Google

Former Googler Julie Chow, author of a new book, lists five lessons on how to do business like Google:
1. Launch and iterate. Even the smartest of the hyper-educated Google leaders cannot predict which products and features will attract a sizable user base. Instead, they urge teams to launch quickly and iterate based on what they learn from their users. Rather than spending time perfecting a product that might not work, get it out there, and let the feedback guide future development. ...

2. Fail fast. If you try a lot of stuff by launching early and iterating, you'll fail at most attempts. This is the secret to innovation. Failure is not a bad thing, but slow failure in the market is. Launch, iterate, and declare the failures as quickly as you can. Most importantly, learn from those failures to help guide future efforts.

3. Focus on the user. Your customers or users should be your singular focus, always. A question I ask incessantly to maintain this focus is: "What problem are we trying to solve for our customers?" Every product or service must be linked to a problem or challenge that will make their lives easier.

4. Ask forgiveness, not permission. This mantra was important to mobilize every Google employee in the company to do the things they felt were right without worrying about what approvals they needed to do it. The idea is to remove barriers and to empower employees to act quickly. Reward employees for taking initiative, and treat their missteps as any other failure — something to learn from, but not to dwell on.

5. If you see a void, fill it. This is my favorite lesson from Google. It gives explicit permission to employees and the expectation that, if something is broken, everyone is empowered and responsible to fix it. If there is a spill in the kitchen, clean it up. If the copy machine is broken, file a ticket. And if you see a void in the market for an application you believe users will love, then build it.
I think the last sentence of number five is the most important for aspiring entrepreneurs trying to figure out what kind of opportunity to pursue. Figure out what is missing or needs improvement, then make that the market for your business.

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