Google does some amazing things. Because of Google, cars drive themselves and you soon might be wearing computerized glasses. Because of Google, you can search through the world’s library of books, the world’s library of websites, and even translate any page in any language to your native tongue with the click of a button.
What allows Google do these awesome things? One reason is that they have a really cool CEO.
Larry Page is the CEO and cofounder of Google. He promotes a philosophy for Google that is unlike any other in the industry. In a field where companies are satisfied seeing incremental growth and where ten percent improvements are the norm, Larry Page expects his employees to create products and services that are ten times better than the competition, something Wired refers to as a 10X mindset.
Some of Google’s projects really reflect Pages’ 10X mentality and show their commitment to ten-upping the competition. Gmail, for example, was a big financial risk. Google offered free email to users with ten times more storage space than other services and luckily it was widely successful. The 10X philosophy is also the primary engine running Google X, which is Google’s secretive research and development department responsible for projects like Google Glass and Google+. Google really isn’t afraid to shoot for the moon and it’s largely because Larry Page knows how to operate a business.
In his recent Wired interview, Page said he feels that something has gone seriously wrong with the way people run companies. He explained that although many great companies show consistent incremental improvement, small steps are really not enough to shoot for in the technology world: “it’s natural for people to want to work on things that they know aren’t going to fail. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change.”
This incremental improvement might be a result of how businesses set their goals. The focus, he said, is often on competition between a company and its rivals, even though this method rarely produces significant results. “It’s hard to find actual examples of really amazing things that happened solely due to competition,” he said. And the message rings true. Companies seem to forever work towards beating competitors, and either succeed in doing so by a modest margin or by obliterating the competition, but as Page says, “how exciting is it to come to work if the best you can do is trounce some other company that does roughly the same thing?”
Google isn’t like other businesses because they shirk from doing the same things. They spend a lot of their resources aiming for brand new and completely innovative ideas in totally untested space because that’s where the real profits are. Page explained that while there are huge opportunities available in the technology landscape, people are only grazing a portion of them, reasoning that, “all tech companies are at like 1 percent. That means there’s 99 percent virgin territory.” Although some of the bigger risks cost a lot more money to Google and investors, they often have the greatest return, “those are the things they’re most excited about—YouTube, Chrome, Android,” Page said.
Exploring new space often pays big dividends, but sometimes you’ve got to try some risky things to reach a decent pay off. As Page says, “If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.” If the technology world is all working in the same 1% of space, then his advice really holds water—we’re all working in explored territory when there’s an abundance of opportunity in completely undiscovered planes. This is a useful way for any business owner to think about his products and offerings.
The question you might have is “how feasible is it for a small business to make daring risks like these?” It’s one thing for a billion dollar corporation to take risks and quite another for a small IT shop to take risks. The tough answer is that it’s not always wise. A risk is a risk because it’s risky. But having said that, you don’t have to take huge daring risks to play in another space. The first person who decided to run his business by charging users a monthly fee for IT support might have seemed crazy, but in that case, trying something different worked.
Today we see that many, if not most companies have stepped away from the standard break/fix model for favor of monthly service fees. As that becomes the new standard, what will the next standard be? Or better yet, how can you innovate in ways that don’t fit any standard mold and how can you take worthwhile risks within your space? How do you touch that 99 percent? There’s no firm answer to these questions, but it’s worthwhile to know that it starts with imagination, dreaming big, taking a few shots in the dark, and trying to do things a little more 10X. Just take a Page (pun intended) out of the book of Google and shoot right for the moon.