In the summer of 2008, a crisis evolved on my team at Google: social networks had grown exponentially. The AdSense network was flooded with social network page impressions whose poor performance challenged advertisers and Google alike.
During that summer, we formed a tiger team of about four or five key people. We shed our daily responsibilities, relocated our desks to a conference room in a deserted building on the edge of campus where we brainstormed and debated and wrote patents and developed a plan of action. Those few weeks were some of the most productive of my time at Google.
Reading through Ken Segall’s book, Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success, I came across this passage which reminded me of the summer spent on that tiger team.
There are many who believe Steve Jobs was a creative genius. I think it would be more accurate to say he was a genius who loved creativity.
Jobs greatest strength may have been clearing the way for creative people to achieve their potential. Segall argues Jobs' relentless defense of creativity made him and his companies great.
Creativity blossoms in environments of mercilessly small teams, honest/direct/brutal feedback, and “no compromises” attitudes. Practically speaking this means deploying small teams on projects and constraining meeting sizes; empowering/trusting these small teams to make bold strides; hiring well; providing clear direction and honest feedback - ultimately enabling faster iteration cycles for better results.
But it doesn’t take a crisis to form tiger teams or champion and defend creativity. We can do these things every day. It’s about waking up in the morning and asking, “How will I enable greatness today?”
May 5, 2013