Posted by: Providence Chamber of Commerce | April 5, 2012

FORBES: Lessons in Creativity from Google

By Steffan Postaer

Get this: Google encourages its creative staff to spend one day a week, every week, working on personal projects. These digital experiments are then put online so that you and I can try them out. In addition, Google welcomes comments about said apps so it can determine whether to develop them further or just let ‘em die. It’s called Google Labs, and it’s where Google Goggles and Google Maps were developed. A number of cool ideas are incubating there right now, and I’m sure more will be forthcoming tomorrow.

Finally, someone gets it.

How many times have I longed for my clients to “test” our creative in the marketplace versus running it up and down the proverbial flagpole? Over the years, I’ve seen countless potentially brilliant ideas tested into oblivion. We all have. By focus groups. Link testing. Animatics. Millward Brown. The CMO’s wife. Lord, it’s wearisome. Moreover, it’s time consuming and expensive, often surpassing what it would have cost to just produce the damn thing and seed it somewhere.

In all my years, I’ve never seen an idea get demonstrably better by studying it. On the contrary, I’ve seen ideas get worse … then better again … then split down the middle. I know ideas are processed into pulp so that everyone can digest them. But in that process, the fire goes out. We are left with a dull ember quickly extinguished in the relentless gush of popular culture. Intuitively, we know this is true, yet testing is standard operating procedure. We start with diamonds and process them into coal. It’s backwards!
Until, that is, someone like Google says: Cool idea! Let’s see what people think. If there’s a problem, we’ll fix it. If something sucks, we’ll move on.

Google actually has faith in its creative department and, more importantly, in the consumer. No fear.

Oh, I hear the arguments. Indeed, I’ve heard them for 25 years. We have but one budget … one chance to get it right. We can’t afford to be wrong.

I say we can’t afford to be afraid of being wrong. Yet, no one listens to the emotional creative guy. He or she is a tempest in a teapot, more worried about artistic expression than business results. Okay, listen to Google then. It knows something about results


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