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10/24/2007
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Google's Glotzbach Evangelizes 'Culture Of Collaboration' At Interop

The product management director at Google Enterprise suggests companies need not only to push their ideas to market quickly but also innovate internally to survive.

It's obvious that size isn't as important as it used to be, and bigger no longer means better, but not everyone in the enterprise and IT knows how to compete in a world where speed has become everything.




Matthew Glotzbach, head of products, Google Enterprise.
(click for image gallery)

Matthew Glotzbach, product management director at Google Enterprise, found that his toddler can offer some insight.

Glotzbach showed footage of his two-and-a-half year old daughter playing with his iPhone. She likes maps and the video shows her manipulating the device to get what she wanted: maps. Glotzbach said he was afraid his daughter would drop and break the device so he gave her his old smartphone. She slid her fingers across the screen, handed it back and announced: "Daddy, it's broken."

"If you successfully innovate, you make the old way of doing things seem broken," he said Wednesday during a keynote address at Interop New York.

Glotzbach said that companies need not only to push their ideas to market quickly but also to innovate internally to survive.

An unparalleled rate of technology development, which is pushing the cost of technology "down through the floor" and the power of technology "up through the roof," is enabling consumer-driven innovation like never before, he said.

"The tools of production are really being democratized and the idea of innovation is changing," he said.

And, Glotzbach insists that enterprises must take advantage of it.

That means companies and their IT departments need to completely change their roles and their way of thinking, he said.

"There used to be this idea of a stable competitive advantage," he said. "I think that's an old idea."

Apple didn't rest on its laurels after releasing the iPod. Instead, the company has released nearly a dozen versions, or iterations, since 2001, with the most "profound" changes culminating in the iPhone, he said.

Other companies should follow suit and model themselves after "hotbeds of innovation," like Silicon Valley, Route 128 in Boston, and Israel -- a country of 7 million people which ranks second to the United States for the number of patents its citizens obtain and produced GPS, SMS, instant messaging, and texting, Glotzbach said.

That means bringing new products to market quickly and efficiently like BMW, IBM, Toyota, and Wal-Mart, he added. It also means introducing and using new ideas in terms of service, like Amazon, eBay, Google, Starbucks, and Virgin, he said.

"Starbucks is probably the best example," Glotzbach said, adding that, no matter how long the line is, he'll stand in it because he knows the staff will plow through the line at a rapid clip and get his order right.

Companies can produce better results by creating "a culture of collaboration," rather than just dumping more funds in research and development, he said.

To do that, companies must listen to their customers and react to their feedback quickly. Google did just that, announcing Wednesday that it has added IMAP (the Internet Message Access Protocol) to its Gmail service after users urged the company to do so.

To foster collaboration in-house, companies need to create an atmosphere where people are free to take risks, make their own decisions, and share information, Glotzbach explained.

Gmail and Google News came from employees given the time to work on any project that interested them.

At Google, "there's no penalty for failure," he said. "If you're not failing, it probably means you're not trying hard enough."

A Whole Foods store in California also boosted sales after placing more trust in its employees and allowing them to decide what to order, when to order, and how to stock the shelves, Glotzbach said.

"Everyone wins," he said. "Customers are getting what they want. The employees love it because they're not mindlessly stocking shelves. They're running a business."

Managers and IT support should be giving people the tools they need to do their jobs, run their companies, and move quickly. "Get out of their way, and step back," Glotzbach said. "I'm not saying 'make it a free-for-all.' Companies still have to set policies."

But now, especially with a shift to Web-based applications, IT departments can help employees embrace new technology and tools instead of putting up barriers to their use and taking a fear-based approach, he said.

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