Google's Innovation Surplus


Very interesting article in the Los Angeles Times (thanks Dan Hill) about Google’s shift from product development to feature development. Even the founders of Google are confused by the vast array of products they have released over the last year and they are now seeking to stem the tide and focus on maturing the products they do have. (Or perhaps they were just spooked by the impending $1.65 billion they were about to spend on YouTube a few days after this article appeared.)

This quote in particular stood out:

Analysts said Google was fighting a problem that had historically plagued technology giants, many of which became so enamored with innovating that they forgot to create products that people would really use. “They created a bunch of crap that they have no idea what to do with,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, said of Google. “What a huge waste of resources.”

Google admitted this year that its internal audits discovered that the company had been spending too much time on new services to the detriment of its core search engine.

Google is a great example of a type of company I’ve written about before, one for whom innovation is not the hard part any more, and who finds itself in a state of innovation surplus. Now the challenge becomes matching the panoply of innovations to the business goals, otherwise you run the risk, as Google is doing, of losing focus and confusing customers.

(Clarification on what I mean by innovation surplus as I wasn’t as clear as I could have been in the article on CPH127: I’m not implying that there are problems not being addressed by innovation, or that we’ve solved all problems, or that all companies have more innovations than they know what to do with. But increasingly there are companies, like Google,  that are in this situation of innovation surplus, and it can place an enormous drain on resources, as Google is finding, and diffuse the focus on what the company is about.)