ASAE Annual Meeting

Innovation through Culture Stories at Google

By Association Adviser staff • August 20, 2020

When it comes to innovation, one of the first organizations that leaps to many people’s minds is Google. Digital marketing consultant and speaker Steve Lerch shared his experience working at the tech giant in his Game Changer session that closed out a packed first day at the 2020 ASAE Annual Meeting.

“Innovation quite simply is finding a better way to do something. A better way to tackle an old problem,” Lerch said.

We get closer and closer to what we consider impossible each day, and innovation is happening at a faster pace than ever before. New ideas today can be on the forefront one day and irrelevant the next, which is why Lerch says it’s imperative to create a culture for innovation that doesn’t rest on one great idea. Cultivate an atmosphere that supports and incentivizes the relentless pursuit of striving to be new and better.

Here are four principles Lerch said encourages creative thinking and risk taking that lead to innovation:

1. Innovation comes from anywhere

Associations and companies need driven people at all levels, as well as leaders willing to listen and take a meeting with anyone willing to move the organization forward. At the same time, make sure your employees know not only where to go if they have an idea that could improve your product or organization, but make sure they feel supported to step outside the lines of their core job description.

2. Launch, learn and improve

Treat any new idea as a first version and be willing to get feedback and make improvements. Start quickly and don’t waste time in your mind working out each detail to perfection. Google Glasses went from idea to prototype in just 45 minutes, and while some consider the product a failure, Lerch said that OK, because the knowledge learned in the process of creating that technology was used on future projects, proving that the experience gained along the way is worthwhile.

3. Free time

… it’s valuable. Known as 20% time at Google, allow yourself and your team time to pursue ideas and projects that excite you. This goes beyond giving your staff a chance to have fun and focus on a passion project one day a week; it gives your employees a chance to learn new skills, work across teams and potentially create your next big revenue-generating idea. Don’t believe it? Gmail and Google Maps are two of Google’s most well-known 20% projects.

4. Meaningful mission.

This is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader, particular in associations, which are mission-driven. It’s easy to get bogged down in the responsibilities of the day to day, but it’s your job as a leader to connect the dots between a team member’s daily tasks, the members you serve and your mission that matters.