What’s different about today’s business environment – in what can be termed the “Internet Century”? Power has shifted to the consumer and entry barriers to almost every industry that exists have melted away. And within companies, individuals and small teams can have a massive impact.
The people who can have the greatest impact inside a company are now the “smart creatives” – those who have the right blend of technical know-how, business expertise and creativity. Smart creatives know how to use the tools of the modern era to do amazing things incredibly fast.
Google has excelled not because it followed some master business plan but because the company attracts smart creatives and then creates an environment where they can thrive at scale.
If you aspire to get ahead in the Internet Century which is still just beginning, figure out better ways to attract and use smart creatives. This will need to be a combination of your culture, your strategy, your talent pool, how you make decisions, how information gets communicated and the way you innovate. Organize your company around the smart creatives with the greatest impact and you position your enterprise to excel.
To be effective, smart creatives have to care about where they work. They will rate culture higher than their assigned roles or responsibilities, the industry or even their individual compensation package. You’ve got to have an organizational culture where people live your slogans or you won’t be able to attract smart creatives.
Google’s culture is everyone knows the company’s mission (“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible”) and employees know they don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to solve problems which stand in the way. A great example of this happened back in 2002. Co-founder Larry Page was frustrated that when he searched for details about a vintage motorcycle “Kawasaki H1B” he got back ads from lawyers who were willing to help immigrants get H-1B US visas but nothing about motorcycles. Frustrated, Larry Page printed the pages, highlighted the offending ads and posted them on the bulletin board in the kitchen with THESE ADS SUCK scrawled in big letters at the top. He then went home.
A software engineer saw Larry’s note and as a weekend project enlisted the help of four colleagues to try and address the issue. They figured out a solution, coded a prototype solution and provided sample results which were then circulated to everyone on Monday morning when they returned to work. The engineer’s core insight was ads should be placed based on their relevancy, not just on how much the advertiser was prepared to pay. That insight proved correct and eventually became the foundation on which Google’s AdWords engine and a multi-billion-dollar business was built.
Google is famous for not having a business plan set in stone. Instead, the company trusts its people will figure things out as they go along and adapt as the landscape changes. It turns out this is the exact approach which appeals to smart creatives.
If the future of your business depends on smart creatives, then it stands to reason that finding and hiring smart creatives will be the most important thing you do. No amount of strategy can substitute for talent and you have to be finding it every day.