One concurrent session at the 2010 IEDC conference in Columbus, Ohio that garnered a lot of participant comments was titled – “What would Google do? Rethinking Economic development in the Internet Age. The presentation answered the question based on the book “What Would Google Do?” authored by Jeff Jarvis.
I thought it might be fun to look at the question through the eyes of Google’s core business principles and how they might apply to your economic development strategies. Considering Google’s business performance is the envy of many executives around the world, my sense is there are some lessons worth learning and considering for reapplication in economic development.
Let’s start with Google’s Mission – To organize the world’s information … and make it universally accessible and useful. Simply stated and aspiring to everybody who works at Google. It is also a mission that is aspirational because it can never be fully achieved, leaving room for continual improvement. What is the mission of your Economic Development Organization? Do you have a clear and well-understood mission statement to guide your resource investment choices?
Next, let’s look at the ten things Google knows to be true and consider their application in economic development.
ONE – Focus on the user and all else will follow. Imagine what would happen if you focused on meeting the needs of CEOs in your target industries. Ensuring CEOs have the resources to compete effectively in the global market, and deliver superior shareholder value should be the primary focus of your Organization’s efforts. This includes investing in enabling assets, infrastructure and effective public policy that encourages business growth. Google would likely become an effective partner to the CEO to effectively create the conditions for success, and then trust both job growth and prosperity would follow.
TWO – It’s best to do one thing really, really well. Google focuses on searching information and being the best in the world at it. Employees live, breath and dream about finding even better ways to search. What is the competitive edge your Economic Development Organization is singularly focused on? Is it creating unique collaborations between businesses and academia that help accelerate technology transfer? Is it supporting the training and development of skilled talent to help companies grow even faster? Is it helping companies complete expansion projects on time and under budget? I believe Google Management would assess the capabilities of your economic development Organization and decide to focus on one thing that would provide a competitive performance edge.
THREE – Fast is better than slow. Google understands that time is indeed money in business. The faster a company can get their product or service to market, the more profitable it can be. Anything your economic development Organization can do to help eliminate barriers should be in your work scope. Google would focus on getting fast, accurate answers to company questions. It would proactively work to ensure implementation of best practices and an easy flow of resources to the most important work. Redundancy and inefficiencies would be eliminated as quickly as they are identified.
FOUR – Democracy on the web works. In today’s reality, economic development is an interdependent activity. The days of a community going it on their own are over. The resource requirements are simply too high. Everybody has a job to do and if everybody does their job well, the probability of success is dramatically enhanced. Google would work to ensure system and process alignment between communities, regions and the state level. Everybody would be encouraged to contribute to the successful attraction, retention and expansion of businesses recognizing one person’s work reinforces everybody’s.
FIVE – You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. CEOs need information about your community as a location choice, and you need to ensure it is easily accessible. It is important to understand how executives get the information they rely on to form an opinion about your community. These are important touch points for effective communication. Google would make absolutely certain messaging about your community is always readily available and current for when the CEO is ready receptive to hearing it.
SIX – You can make money without doing evil. Decisions should be principle based, and all businesses should command the same level of respect and service from your economic development Organization. They should also be transparent. Google would make certain that all programs offered would be easy to understand and access with minimal redtape.
SEVEN – There is always more information out there. There is always more ways to help companies be successful. But, to identify them takes focused attention and an Organizational priority. Just when Google thinks their search tools are cutting edge, they apply creativity and find an even better way. Google succeeds because it believes there is always a better way. The same attitude would determine the ultimate altitude of your economic development Organization performance.
EIGHT – The need for information crosses all borders. The need for effective support from your economic development Organization crosses all industries. The practices and policies you adopt should be universally applicable. As you add an industry to your community portfolio, it should be with the same passion and support provided to the other industries you are targeting.
NINE – You can be serious without a suit. Google believes work should be challenging, but the challenge should be fun. Ideas can come from anybody and they are valued. Diversity is a key to success and should be nurtured. The focus needs to be on the mission, not on Organizational hierarchy. Everybody should be enthusiastic about what is being accomplished. Google would make certain the right people are on the bus and in the right seats.
TEN – Great just isn’t good enough. Innovation and iteration are keys to continual improvement. The concept that standing still means you are falling behind would be understood and operationalized. Google would set stretching goals for your Organization and would believe the journey is as important as the destination.
Hopefully I have captured a different perspective of what Google would do if it got into the economic development game. It would be fantastic if somebody from Google would leave a comment and shed additional insight for us to consider. While we wait for that, I’d like to know your thoughts. What do you think Google would do? Please leave a comment.