Innovation. It’s a term that several companies use to define internal success and it is what many organizations work hard to accomplish. Many of these businesses have different techniques they use to achieve this success. One example is Google. It has paved the way for other companies such as Xerox, for instance, by developing a unique way to inspire innovation and creativity amongst their teams. They do so by establishing a tool that gives employees autonomy to work on whatever projects they so desire. This tool is Google’s 80/20 policy.
The 80/20 policy was announced through an open IPO letter written by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin back in 2004. This letter stated that they were going to encourage their employees to dedicate 20% of their time to work on separate projects that they felt would benefit the company. They hoped that this would encourage their employees to be more creative and innovative. Sure enough, they were correct. This policy led to the creation of some of Google’s most well-known products that include Google News, Gmail, and AdSense.
For those unfamiliar with these products, Google News provides similar information to what major news sites report on such as CNN online and Fox News. What makes Google News special, however, is that it is computer generated and “aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests.” Gmail, a feature that most people and businesses so commonly use today, is a free Web-based e-mail service that provides users with a gigabyte of storage for messages and provides the ability to search for specific email messages. It is a way for Google, like Facebook, to create a network for people to connect throughout the world. As of February 2016, Gmail has around 1 billion active monthly users.
AdSense works differently than Gmail and Google News. It is the feature that I find has the most impact on digital marketing and business today. AdSense generates revenue for publishers using EPC (earnings per click) and CPC (cost per click). Businesses can quickly formulate ads online using templates provided by the AdSense that create codes pasted onto their company websites. These ads can have several formats and sizes including text and images. Publishers will then get paid for clicks on the ads that appear on their sites. As of February 2015, AdSense publishers were noted to be receiving about 68% of the click cost and Google receiving 32%.
Other companies have decided to implement employee innovation into their corporate culture as well. Companies such as Xerox, Chubb, and Whirlpool have taken a cue from Google and have embraced innovation by making it part of everyone’s jobs. As a company primarily known for just producing photocopiers, Xerox needed a new way to expand their product lines. They decided to add educational products to their mix to distinguish themselves as a company not just known for producing office copiers. One of these educational products they developed is called Ignite and was developed as a tool for teachers to use when grading exams and works similarly to a scanner. Completed exams are put through the device and can specifically direct the teacher to see–at a glance–what a student needs. For instance, if it is a math exam, once the exam is scanned through, the software can pinpoint if the student is doing poorly on fractions, but well on multiplication based on their scores. It can also help the educator compare how students are doing relative to their peers, and the teacher can then act to help the students improve where necessary.
Xerox has incorporated this vision by putting their researchers directly into the field. For example, in the case of Ignite, researchers visited classrooms to directly observe how teachers work and how they might work more efficiently. A second method that they use is what they call “dreaming sessions” with its clients. These are casual sessions designed to get Xerox and its clients to think more creatively about problems and solutions by talking it through together. Back in 2013, the Chief Technology Officer of Xerox at the time, Sophie Vandebroek, stated that “Being innovative to me is being both creative and entrepreneurial. And you can’t be creative and entrepreneurial unless you truly bring your heart to work, and have fun at work. It is essential. You need to have fun every day.” To me, that is the heart of what makes these companies able to innovate so well. These employees bring their expert skills and ideas to implement change.
Ultimately, companies like Google and Xerox thrive on continuously inventing new ways to promote innovation throughout their organizations. Whether it is through ideas such as Google’s 80/20 rule or working directly with clients the way that Xerox does to determine their biggest needs for improvement, continuous innovation is key. The question is, can these companies afford to dedicate so much time to innovation or is focusing on a few products more beneficial?
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