Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't Be Evil

We all think of Google as innovative and fun, but do we ever stop and think how it became that way? Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page started the small company in 1998 and since then has consistently made Fortune magazine's list of best companies to work for. Though many points made here could also support a discussion on how Google fosters creativity and innovation, I will assume that creativity is a byproduct of the culture.
According to Schein, culture is “the assumption that underlie the values and determine not only behavior patterns, but also such visible artifacts as architecture, office layout, dress codes, and so on.” Google’s culture is based on sharing ideas and opinions in order to accomplish their mission of organizing the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Clearly they pride themselves on unorthodox practices, such as no dress codes or strict hours. Free food at the Googleplex cafĂ© and whiteboards in the hallways further instill the idea of open communication. Googlers can also join interest groups and partake in the onsite massage parlor, salon and doctor’s office. They also created the office space to have very few solo offices, fitness equipment, and games. Probably the most famous perk it the 20% rule, in which 20% of an employee’s time must be spent on a project of personal interests.
Sergey and Larry have done a terrific job in defining and upholding the culture by recruiting the right people to fit their ideas. How often do you hear about a company with the position of Chief Culture Officer? Google does, and she works with employees around the world to figure out ways to maintain and enhance and develop Google’s culture and how to keep the core values they had in the very beginning--a flat organization. Every Friday is TGIF in which employees are allowed to ask the founders anything and everything.
Following Schein’s Problems of Internal Integration, we can clearly see Google’s culture in their Code of Conduct ( Language is seen through the use of Googlers, Googleplex, Nooglers, etc. Boundaries: Everyone is in, unless you do something “evil” i.e. personal investments, outside employment and inventions, accepting gifts and other business courtesies. Intimacy: personal relationships at work should be avoided. Other examples can be found embedded in their expanded code.
The next phase in shaping culture would have to be when Larry and Sergey decide to pass the torch and step back from the organization. They will have to choose carefully who will replace them position wise as well as culturally to avoid the case we saw with Carly Fiorina.

Creative Leadership

There are hundreds of books written about him, his leadership style, and his legacy. For example, search him in you will find almost 49,000 options. If you narrow your search to books only a whopping 17,500 books are available to read. Narrow it further to biography only and you find 160 different biographies about him including a Spanish version and a Tamil version.

Who is this person that has inspired such a prolific quantity of text? And what was the impetus for the current $36.1 billion dollar empire attributed to his legacy? (Igler, 2010) Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic, would say this infamous leader is Walt Disney and his “magic ingredient” is his Creativity.

J.B. Kaufman, film historian and coauthor of the film Walt in Wonderland said “You can’t think of Walt Disney without thinking of creativity. That was his leading quality. His mind was always seeking new and creative ways to do things. He wouldn’t let anything or anyone limit this scope of his vision, and he never lost his capacity to dream in a big way.” (Kaufman) Joe Grant, an artist who worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the original and new Fantasia said that “[Walt] had an astounding creative awareness...He was thinking and creating on many different levels, at all times. It was exciting and stimulating to be around him, because ideas were constantly whirling around him…You began to inhabit his world of ideas.” (Grant)

But were Disney’s unique ideas enough to create an American icon in Mickey Mouse, found an empire that spans nearly every continent, and inspire a legacy of leadership? Amabile (1998) said that creativity alone is not enough. “To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate – useful and actionable.” (Amabile, 1998)

Pat Williams, author of How to be like Walt, said that it was just Disney’s unique ideas that made him so successful; it was his ability to dream and then do, to conceptualize and the actualize. “Walt is remembered to this day, not because he dreamed, but because he created and constructed what he had dreamed.” (Williams, 2004) Disney pushed himself and his team to constantly work hard, work creatively, and to push the limits of the possible.

Williams says the real power of Disney’s creativity came in the face of adversity. Disney’s original creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, as well as most of his staff, was stolen by a business associate. It is said that instead of responding destructively or rebelliously, Disney responded to the challenge creatively. It was on the train ride home from the fateful meeting in New York when Disney learned Oswald had been swindled and his staff team had deserted, that Mickey Mouse was born. “Mickey was not merely the right idea at the right time; he was the creative solution to a crisis in Walt’s life.” (Williams, 2004)

Disney and the company he created satisfies the necessary requirements of creativity established in Amabile’s article. (Amabile, 1998) Disney himself was inventive, intrinsically motivated, and became an expert in animation. He created an enterprise that encouraged those same attributes in his staff. He constantly set a new challenge to his team, gave them the freedom to accomplish it, shared resources to foster success, encouraged diversity of thought, and embraced the ‘failure value’.

Disney embodies several of the attributes that DePree (1992) identified as Leaders’ Leaders. Specifically, Disney remained “vulnerable to real surprise,” “worked with creative people without fear,” “remained wary of incremental change,” and “set an example for openness and imagination and acceptance.” (DePree, 1992)

Ultimately, Disney did not believe that creativity was for the elite only or simply an innate trait born in the womb. He believed that creativity is a skilled to be learned and nurtured. He challenged his team to push to new heights, create new ideas, and to do the impossible. Walt Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” That is the power of his influence, the power of his leadership.

Works Cited

Amabile, T. (1998). How to Kill Creativity. Harvard Business Review , 78-87.

DePree, M. (1992). Leaders' Leaders. In M. DePree, Leadership Jazz (pp. 93-108).

Grant, J. (n.d.). Interview with Joe Grant. (P. Williams, Interviewer)

Igler, R. (2010, January 1). 2009 Year in Review - Letter to Shareholders. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from Corporate Disney:

Kaufman, J. (n.d.). Walt in Wonderland. (P. Williams, Interviewer)

Williams, P. (2004). How to be like Walt. Deerfield Beach, FLorida: Health Communications Inc.

Proctor and Gamble's Innovative Culture

Proctor and Gamble (P&G) has long been known for its innovative culture. P&G’s principles reflect Schein’s categories of problems that culture solves (see for the principles).

P&G’s mission is seeking to be the best with the goal to “create and deliver products, packaging and concepts that build winning brand equities.” They accomplish this through being strategically focused and operating “against clearly articulated and aligned objectives and strategies,” as well as only doing work that adds value. Furthermore, they state that “innovation is the cornerstone to our success,” which will be discussed subsequently. Their criteria for success is benchmarking their performance “rigorously versus the very best internally and externally.” They strive to learn from their failures as a remediation tactic. Common language includes honesty, integrity, personal mastery, diversity, and sustainability. People included in P&G are those who “want to contribute to their fullest potential,” “achieve high expectations, standards, and challenging goals,” and have “outstanding technical mastery and executional excellence.” The reward for these people is stock ownership and ownership behavior. The criteria for intimacy is “doing what is right for the business with integrity” because this creates mutual success for the company and the individual. “Confidence” and “trust” are also important because employees must “work together… across business units, functions, categories and geographies.” Lastly, P&G’s ideology is to “challenge convention and reinvent the way we do business to better win in the marketplace,” which is essentially innovation.

Innovation is critical to P&G’s success and culture, and they are the leading innovator in their industry. They invest over $350 million in consumer understanding to determine innovation opportunities. SymphonyIRI’s New Product Pacesetters Report “recognized P&G as the most innovative manufacturer in the consumer packaged goods industry for the last decade” ( How do they do this? They value “big, new consumer innovations,” and Amabile’s article discusses the innovation team that P&G created called Corporate New Ventures. Aside from this specialized unit, P&G as a whole operates according to Amabile’s three components of creativity. They value expertise, evident in hiring less than 1% of the half-million people applying for P&G jobs each year. Their recruiting process “measures intelligence, assesses character and leadership, and predicts success at P&G” ( P&G also fosters creative-thinking skills, as seen in their “innovation centers,” which simulate in-home and in-store environments, enabling employees to solve innovation challenges (2008 Annual Report). P&G not only emphasizes disruptive innovation and creating new ideas and products, but they want employees to continuously evaluate and improve products already on the market through sustained innovation.

P&G is also very focused on Amabile’s most important creativity component – motivating employees. They state, “We challenge P&G people from day one” through hands-on experience ( They match meaningful responsibilities for each employee, which is critical for intrinsic motivation. They stimulate employees’ minds (Florida & Goodnight) by providing technical, functional, and leadership skills training. This training often takes employees into stores or consumers’ houses to truly touch the issue. P&G also stimulates minds by assigning projects that require collaboration within and outside the company. This collaboration requires work-group design (Amabile), which P&G does by valuing differences, believing that “the interests of the company and the individual are inseparable,” and building “confidence and trust across business units, functions, categories and geographies.” Furthermore, P&G seeks to minimize hassles (Florida & Goodnight) by striving to “simplify, standardize and streamline” work. Finally, P&G provides employees with supervisory encouragement (Amabile). Senior executives are mentors and coaches for younger managers, helping them develop necessary leadership skills and planning their careers at P&G (

Through all of these examples, it is evident that the two theories of leadership is innovation and leadership is culture come into play at P&G, and can be realized in this video by CEO Bob McDonald After watching this video, how does P&G’s innovative culture help them achieve their purpose of providing “branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come”?