Mar 11, 2011
Julie

Google’s Dan Cobley on Driving Innovation

I took a few hours out of a busy week to attend the Dublin Web Summit. Last year, like many people, I found the event fairly light on marketing and sales speakers as it focused largely on start-up businesses and issues such as sourcing funding. This time around the speaker line up was quite diverse, including James Whelton (@jwhelton), the Irish teenager who was the first person in the World to hack the iPod Nano, Jerry Kennelly, founder of Tweak.com and great speakers such as Ben Parr (@BenParr) of Mashable.com and Dan Cobley, Google’s Director of European Marketing.

Cobley gave a presentation on Google’s approach to innovation and the ten principles behind their success…

  1. Hire the right people – Google look for ‘curious problem solvers’
  2. Ideas come from everywhere - Cobley stated your shouldn’t ‘always look to the subject matter expert for ideas’. Google allow staff to spend 20% of their time on projects outside of their ‘core’ work…work that isn’t necessarily part of their job descriptions which allows people to develop ideas for a range of initiatives
  3. Share all information – ‘It is hard to innovate in a space when you don’t have all the information.’
  4. Data drives all decisions – ‘It’s cheap now to run data driven tests’. Google regularly run ’1% tests’ across their network to ensure that all decisions are made based on user usage stats and not on presumptions. Dan used the example of Google’s blue links to highlight the importance of conducting research before making a decision. They ran a test using over 70 shades of blue in their links across their network and found people were more receptive to blues with a purple hue. Because they identified the best link colour through research the company now makes an amazing $200 million more each year.
  5. Launch early and often, kill fast
  6. Balance resources
  7. Prioritise ruthlessly
  8. Do quirky stuff – Cobley defined this as ‘fun for your team, your customers and the media’. He gave an example of an employee who had the idea of sending an Android phone into space [click here to view a video on this]. The company are now in talks with NASA to launch a similar project.
  9. Put users first, then money
  10. Bet on the future – He cited how people said bandwidth costs would cripple YouTube’s profit potential and questioned Google’s strategy is that regard. Bandwidth costs fell rapidly and YouTube is now profitable.

His slides from the Web Summit are available online here.

For more insights from the Dublin Web Summit, read this post from Brendan Hughes who jotted down some of the speakers pearls of wisdom from the event.

Cobley spoke gave a TED talk last year on ‘What Physics Taught me about Marketing’ and it’s well worth a look…

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