Five Google Mantras That May Not Work For You

USA Today re-posted a guest blog from in which a former Google exec talks about the five mantras of Google culture and suggests that any small business could benefit by adopting them.

Julie Clow, who worked for five years helping Google create a corporate culture, says the five mantras are:
  1. Launch and iterate.
  2. Fail fast.
  3. Focus on the user.
  4. Ask forgiveness, not permission.
  5. If you see a void, fill it.
These are really good mantras. In the several companies I owned over the years in high-tech, I tried to implement them or some variation or sub-set of them whenever I could; they're not new with Google.

But when Clow says, "These mantras are at the core of innovation for Google, but translate readily to any business to create agility, employee engagement, and ultimately, stronger business results," she's just wrong.

To be able to afford these policies — which she says "cost no money" — requires that a company's resources be sufficiently deep that allowing employees to speculate on new projects with little or no supervision doesn't fatally disrupt product plans already being implemented, customer support, and other ongoing activities of the organization. And that, despite Ms. Clow's enthusiasm for her work at Google and its obvious results, does cost money.

Contained within these mantras are great ideas for even smallish companies and adopting them certainly creates a culture of innovation. To the extent that you can implement them without disruption of your core business, you should try. But to let yourself be distracted from your primary focus — what your customers want and need from you now — risks the business for the sake of pure innovation. My experience over 40+ years in high-tech entrepreneurship says that seldom pays dividends in small companies.

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