In the fast changing and turbulent business and economic environment, creativity and innovation is increasingly important for the success and performance of a firm. To begin, creativity is a sort of mental process, either conscious or unconscious, that generates ideas, concepts and associations of various elements in the world. Innovation, however, is the profitable outcome of the creative process and the successful exploitation of the new ideas. In the current state of economy, there is hardly such thing as a sustainable competitive advantage in any industry. Thus, researchers and practitioners have been arguing that organizations must tap into the creativity of various employees and then to utilize the human capital to create an innovation culture. With innovation, the organization will be able to deliver better value to the market place, and in the long run, will be able to form an innovation edge, which is essential to attainment of competitive advantage in the new economy today. In this wiring, Google, a famous and high-performing Internet company will be used as an example for our discussion in the context of creativity and innovation in business arena.
Google is a company often associated by analysts and researchers with the concept of creativity and innovation, and that is not without reasons. One of the main reasons that Google is often associated with creativity is due to the flexible and fun workplace allowed by the corporation. For example, it is well-known that Google is a company that promotes innovation, by having flexible workplace, informal attires during meeting, playful and fun environment in the workplace as well as having a campus-like environment to enhance the creativity and innovation process among the employees in the company (Castelluccio, 2010). All of these criteria are indeed evidences of creativity in work. In fact, all of these new workplace structure and culture are primarily being made popular by Google. Before this, traditional businesses and corporations mostly will not allow such flexibility in the workplace. Google is indeed the first company that tries to keep a young and dynamic spirit in the organization, by organizing roller skater hockey competitions for the workers, providing on-site hair cut, car wash, dental services, laundry facilities, full time chefs in the offices, and allowing employees to keep their pets in the office, and providing a lot of fun and recreational facilities to the workers (Dai, 2007). Google able to spearheads such a change in workplace arrangement, flexibility and new culture that enhance the creativity process in the organization. As a result, the organization is becoming highly innovative, and delivers new services that able to transform the world at a fast pace (Feiman, 2007).
The word ‘structure’ is an important subject of discussion in business studies. It is often the issues of discussion in company’s meeting and it is an important concept for management of organizational behavior. The concept of organizational structure is important because it describe the hierarchy of authority and accountability in an organization. These formal working and reporting relationships are often detailed in the organizational charts. The concept of organizational culture is important because it describe the hierarchy of authority and accountability in an organization. These formal working and reporting relationships are often detailed in the organizational charts.
Google is famous for its open communication organization structure. This is made possible and enhanced by having no management structure in the organization. The rationale is that the leaders do not want some people to instruct the others to do what they should do. In such a situation, nobody is being managed or instructed. Not only that, the company has a organizational structure that the leadership position is rotating from time to time, so that people can learn more and the spirit of creativity of each and every employees are allowed to flourished. In such a situation, every employee is the leader, and people can more effectively participate in the growth of the organization. Such a scenario greatly enhances the creativity process in the company, which in turn enable various innovations in the organization.
By having such an organization structure is instrumental to the success of Google. Without layers of organization structure, people can then discuss without restrictions with the top manager of the company (Castelluccio, 2010). This is similar to the case of an organization without hierarchical structure. As it is widely agreed that organizations with hierarchical structure tend to hinder creativity and innovation, the organization structure of Google, with flat reporting structure, however, promote creativity and innovation.
With open communication, not only the communication is promoted between people in a functional department, but the communication is also encouraged between the different departments in Google. As a result, this enables the people to learn and improve their skills, knowledge and experience in a comprehensive manner. Besides, with effective inter-departmental communication, people are also encouraged to work in a team, stay committed to Google, and understand the bigger picture that Google is heading (Feiman, 2007).
According to the expert of organizational culture – Edgar Shein, organizational culture is defined as follow: “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved their problem that has worked well enough to be considered valid and is passed on to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”
There are several interesting and yet seemingly highly effective culture practiced by Google. In fact, the formation of cultivation of the new culture is indeed a sign of creativity and innovation at work in the company, that in turn leading to more creativity and innovation in the company. In the following paragraphs, we will outline several organizational cultures in Google.
High energy and fast pace environment. Google is indeed a company with high energy and fast pace workplace. The high energy is made possible by having employees that are passionate, committed and motivated about the jobs – the tasks that are assigned to them. This enables a fast pace and highly effective workplace (Castelluccio, 2010; Hohmann, 2009).
Work hard and have fun at the same time. While the employees in Google is definitely working hard for completion of important projects and tasks being assigned to them, they are also allowed to play beach volleyball, videogames, pool tables, table tennis and many other games in the campus (Dai, 2007). Such a situation is highly aspired by the young population of employees, as by doing this, Google able to deliver a sense of fun and campus feelings among the young population in the company. By having a campus-like environment – where the virtues of creativity as well as innovation are encouraged (Hohmann, 2009).
People-oriented. Google has a people-oriented culture, in which the management and the company put people at the center of attention. This can be seen from the organizational structure in the company – where there is apparently no management structure in the organization, as the leaders do not want some people to instruct the others to do what they should do. In such a situation, nobody is being managed, and they are allowed to fully utilize their brain and creativity. In fact, the company has a organizational structure that the leadership position is rotating from time to time, so that people can learn more and the spirit of creativity of each and every employees are not being hindered. In such a situation, every employee is the boss, and people can more effectively participate in the growth of the organization. Such a scenario greatly enhances the creativity process in the company, which in turn enable various innovations in the organization (Goth, 2008).
Informal workplace and allowed of individuality. It is not uncommon for people to notice Google for its informal workplace. Perhaps Google is the very first company allowing informal and flexible workplace for its employees – in which every single employee’s workplace are filled with individuality according to the employee’s preferences, creativity and tastes (Dai, 2007). Not only that, people is also allowed to wear in an informal manner during meetings. This creates a relaxed environment, which will further enhance creativity and innovation in the company (Goth, 2008). By allowing the employees the freedom to decorate and arrange their workplace in the way they desire, this will in turn contribute to Google’s atypical innovative culture and performance. A good environment is necessary for a company success, and Google is going the extra miles by having a wonderful working environment for the employees. As a result, the spirit of creativity burst and the organization become a highly innovative firm shaping the marketplace on a global scale (Hohmann, 2009).
Embracement of innovative culture in the company. Google is a company that cultivates a pro-innovation culture in the company. The management constantly reminds the employees that money is not what the company is pursuing in the marketplace, but the company has a vision to change the world through teamwork and creativity (Goth, 2008). The company has strong being in innovation – and believes that innovation as well as creativity is the key to beating the competition in the marketplace. The cultivation of such an innovative culture is very successful. It is observed that the employees in Google feel proud about such a grand vision and responsibility (i.e., to change the world through innovation), as they are able to participate in such a venture and able to derive pleasure by being part of Google brand. In fact, it is even discover that the employees love their jobs so much in Google, that rather than defining their job as “coding” or “selling advertisements online”, the employees asserted that they are indeed organizing the information around the world and contribute by making this information universally accessible and useful (Hohmann, 2009).
In recent years, there is a famous adage – “change is the only constant” – that indicate an organization need to constantly adapt and proactively lead change to survive in the constantly changing business environment. That is not something different for Google, which compete in a fast changing internet business environment. In the recent years, we witnessed that Google has been undergoing many changes. Since the inception of the company, Google has been growing fast and to a certain extent, the company started to growth by acquisition and partnership with other internet related companies (Dai, 2007). Since 2001, the company has been acquiring many small venture capital companies in the internet industry. For example, in the year of 2004, Google acquired Keyhold Inc., a start-up technology company that developed Earth Viewer which can provide a 3-D view on the earth. In 2006, Google purchased the currently famous You Tube. Then in the year 2007, Google signed agreement with Double Click. All these developments show a proactive efforts to grow, continuous improvement and changes in the corporation that enable the company to provide more services to the marketplace (Wade, 2010; Webber et. al., 2009).
Theoretically speaking, a company can be forced to changed or proactively changing to shape the industry or business environment. As such, the change can be initiated by either external or internal forces. A study on the development history of Google indicates that both external and internal factors are contributing to the changes Google is undergoing. A review of the Google’s development and business, however, reveals that most of the changes are triggers by internal factors. In other words, the company is innovative and is leading changes in the world – instead of being responsive to changes, the company proactive changing itself to create innovative edge (Feiman, 2007).
One of the examples that changes are led by internal triggers is due to the corporation philosophy that never considers failure as a bad thing. The management believes that if people are not feeling being stretched, or if the people are not making mistakes, they are not taking enough risks or trying hard enough. Not only that, the engineers in Google are also encouraged to take 20% of their time to develop new product or service offerings, or to improve current offering. Such a move and direction by management invoke many changes and improvement – that lead to various innovations in the company (Greenstein, 2008).
One of the examples that changes are triggered by external opportunities is this – Gmail (the famous online mailbox) is created because the company understands that online users were deprived of sufficient space for personal information and communication (as the online mailbox available at that particular time is very small). Google understood that users demand an easy search, easy payment system and a single password that enable easy access to information. All these external demands trigger the creation of Gmail (Greenstein, 2008).
Every organization faces its own challenges – that is true as well for a highly successful company such as Google. In 2009, it is reported that twenty six MPs have signed a motion voicing concern that Google has increased its share of the online search ad market to nearly 90%. According to them, Google has corned the market and this is unhealthy – as Google is dominating the online advertising sector and achieving monopoly power. The MPs suggested that monopolies are wrong and should be prevented. The challenge is clear – Google has a case to answer and protect its interest in the marketplace (Peers, 2010).
Besides, it is also commented that many of the employees are working passionately currently at Google may not doing so in the future. This is because once the project is finished or achieved; the management may need to find a lot of new inspiring tasks for these technological geeks to keep them passionate about works. There are indeed insiders commenting that Google engineers will proceed to work hard as long as the search engine required improvement; but when the Google had perfected the search engine, Google face a huge challenge to reinvent itself (by wandering into other business or vision that the company is not built to become). Such a challenge requires huge changes in the organization (Greenstein, 2008).
Creativity and innovation is critically important for any organization in today turbulent and high speed business environment. Google is an excellent example. In fact, Google has been constantly being associated with the concept of creativity and innovations, as the organization structure and culture is designed to promote creative and innovative behaviors among the workers. In this writing, the organization structure and culture of Google is being studied. Later, the factors triggering changes in Google is also being investigated. Both internal and external factors do triggered Google to change, adapt, and innovate. Nonetheless, even as such a successful company as Google, the organization is facing various challenges as well. Change is constant, and that is very true. Every organization faces challenges and must change and innovate to sustain its competitive advantage in the marketplace. Only by reinventing itself can a company remain competitive, relevant and profitable in the face moving economy today.
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