I was sitting comfortably, reading a book on Wednesday night when my phone rings. It was my best friend, “care to join me at Google’s CEO conference tomorrow morning (Thursday)?” The words didn’t quite make any sense in my mind, until I uttered, “Eric Schmidt is coming? Where?”. She then went on “No! Not THAT CEO, (already I thought it was too good to be true), Google Mexico’s CEO John Farrell is giving a conference at our campus”. To be honest, I had never heard of the man, but it seemed too interesting to let go.
The next morning we were being seated in the conference room. A nice approachable fellow started talking in perfect Spanish. There I was thinking that he’d probably have trouble or just talk to us in plain English. His one-sheet biography was being handed out to us just before the conference started. He’d been an advertising executive in several other companies, mainly TV. Here’s a tiny glimpse of him from Google Database http://www.google.com/intl/es-419/press/bios.html
He came into Google back in 2004 as CEO and both his advertising world and the general public’s was about to change drastically. He mostly spoke about AdWords and how they have revolutionized non traditional media. How innovation was highly regarded in Google and its 20% rule (20% of Googlers’ time was to be invested in their own ideas). Only then could innovation be really achieved.
Then the moment everyone (or at least one person other than myself) was waiting for came. Questions time. “Do you consider Facebook to be well organized and thus considered competition?” A girl in the audience asked. Everyone turned to look at the blue -eyed top executive. He didn’t take a moment’s breather and granted us a flawless answer. “Facebook is doing things incredibly well. It is definitely our competitor. We most definitely have different ways to approach the market: they are social, we’re the most sought out Search Engine. But for example, I’m not from Guadalajara, and if I want to eat at a good Chinese restaurant, I would personally trust my friends more for a recommendation than a search engine. That’s their competitive advantage over us. We’re turning a lot of our things social, but still we hold out our advantages as well. We make search, an expert one”.
Satisfied with the politically correct answer, the girl sat down. Several other questions were asked, but that was indeed the highlight. Google formally recognized that it no longer held the keys to virtual paradise: someone else was fighting them for it. He then talked proudly about Android and Chrome. He acknowledged the deliberate intention of Google itself to juxtapose these two operating systems. Make them compete against each other (although Chrome is for tablets mainly and Android for mobile phones). “A Darwinian Strategy” he ever so accurately put it.
That is how Innovation is achieved: let people work on a new idea of theirs. If several come up that are similar, put them against each other and let the best “man” win. I stood in awe at the end of the conference. So simple and direct, that is why Google is still the King.