“How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt notes

How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt, despite being quite self-congratulatory and maybe even prone to confirmation bias, is full of inspirational ideas and bids of practical wisdom to learn from. I took a few (ok, quite a few) notes on smart creatives, decision making, hiring, innovation, strategy, career, management and even managing email.

On smart creatives:

“And who, exactly, is this smart creative? A smart creative has deep technical knowledge in how to use the tools of her trade and plenty of hands-on experience. In our industry, that means she is most likely a computer scientist, or at least understands the tenets and structure of the systems behind the magic you see on your screens every day. But in other industries she may be a doctor, designer, scientist, filmmaker, engineer, chef, or mathematician. She is an expert in doing. She doesn’t just design concepts, she builds prototypes. She is analytically smart. She is comfortable with data and can use it to make decisions. She also understands its fallacies and is wary of endless analysis. Let data decide, she believes, but don’t let it take over.

She is business smart. She sees a direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success, and understands the value of all three. She is competitive smart. Her stock-in-trade starts with innovation, but it also includes a lot of work. She is driven to be great, and that doesn’t happen 9-to-5. She is user smart. No matter the industry, she understands her “get it right the next time around. She is self-directed creative. She doesn’t wait to be told what to do and sometimes ignores direction if she doesn’t agree with it. She takes action based on her own initiative, which is considerable.

She is open creative. She freely collaborates, and judges ideas and analyses on their merits and not their provenance. If she were into needlepoint, she would sew a pillow that said, “If I give you a penny, then you’re a penny richer and I’m a penny poorer, but if I give you an idea, then you will have a new idea but I’ll have it too.” Then she would figure out a way to make the pillow fly around the room and shoot lasers.

She is thorough creative. She is always on and can recite the details, not because she studies and memorizes, but because she knows them. They are her details. She is communicative creative. She is funny and expresses herself with flair and even charisma, either one-to-one or one-to-many.”

 

HIPPOs:

“Hippopotamuses are among the deadliest animals, faster than you think and capable of crushing (or biting in half) any enemy in their path. Hippos are dangerous in companies too, where they take the form of the Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion. When it comes to the quality of decision-making, pay level is intrinsically irrelevant and experience is valuable only if it is used to frame a winning argument. Unfortunately, in most companies experience is the winning argument. We call these places “tenurocracies,” because power derives from tenure, not merit. It reminds us of our favorite quote from Jim Barksdale, erstwhile CEO of Netscape: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

When you stop listening to the hippos, you start creating a meritocracy, which our colleague Shona Brown concisely describes as a place where “it is the quality of the idea that matters, not who suggests it.” Sounds easy, but of course it isn’t. Creating a meritocracy requires equal participation by both the hippo, who could rule the day by fiat, and the brave smart creative, who risks getting trampled as she stands up for quality and merit.”

 

On technical insights as a driver of innovation:

“Bet on technical insights, not market research. Product leaders create product plans, but those product plans often (usually!) lack the most important component: What is the technical insight upon which those new features, products, or platforms will be built? A technical insight is a new way of applying technology or design that either drives down the cost or increases the functions and usability of the product by a significant factor. The result is something that is better than the competition in a fundamental way. The improvement is often obvious; it doesn’t take a lot of marketing for customers to figure out that this product is different from everything else.

For example, at that time Google was experimenting in applying some of our expertise from online advertising to other advertising markets, including print, radio, and TV. These were clever efforts, supported by smart people, but they lacked that fundamental technical insight that would shift the cost-performance curve non-incrementally and provide significant differentiation. All three ultimately failed. And when we look back at other Google products that didn’t make it (iGoogle, Desktop, Notebook, Sidewiki, Knol, Health, even the popular Reader), they all either lacked underlying technical insights from the outset, or the insights upon which they were based became dated as the Internet evolved.”

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Google VP’s résumé formula

An advice on how to frame your accomplishments in a smart way by Google People Operations VP:

“The key is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”

Not many people will have the proper content to frame this way though.

What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis, personal & business lessons

Recently I finished reading What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis. Judging by title I didn’t really expect lots of insights from the book but it appeared to be truly visionary and smart. It even made me kind of regret choosing Economics&Business major over Computer Science 7 years ago…

WWGD appeared not to be about Google itself but about the way business, economics, relationships and world in whole change as the result of technologies wide spread and simplification. So, in fact the book covers quite wide range of topics. From Google’s PageRank, to Facebook, new media, customized solutions, customer relations, blogging, Twitter, context advertising, search engine optimization, online communities management, government policies and many other.

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Save time by approaching your RSS subscriptions in a completely new way: 8 principles for effective reading of blogs

RSS feeds is an awesome tool to save lots of time. You can get them all in the same place and not visit every single web-site to check if there are some updates. But often it becomes quite the opposite.

I personally have 573 subscriptions. That’s a lot. You risk looking at your favorite RSS feeds aggregator (like, Google Reader for example), seeing 1000+ unread items there and then spending half a day passively browsing through them. Instead of pursing your purpose and doing something that will bring you closer to your goals.

So, what are the lifehacks to minimize the time and maximize the value of reading blogs or other RSS feeds?

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Magic shortcuts: 13 best chrome custom searches that will save you lots of time

As you may already know, Google Chrome has an amazing feature that let’s you edit search engines. And search engine means literally any website. What’s the practical application?

Well, if you type something like “great blog” and press enter, by default you’ll be redirected to Google. But you can set up your Chrome to use, let’s say, Yahoo when you type “y great blog” or Bing when you type “b great blog”. Sounds like a great life-hack and a time-saver, doesn’t it? So, instead of going to the other website you just add one letter before the query itself and Chrome uses the other search engine to find what you need.

First, you’ll need to know how to add a new search engine, I won’t go into details as there are a lot of tutorials on web at the moment.

I’m sure you can come up with lost of ideas on how to use this feature yourself, but let me sparkle your imagination a little with my own list of searches. Here is what I use and consider to be the most useful:

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How I saved hours and hours of time, reduced disturbances and stress level with a simple Gmail lifehack

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

I’ve been re-reading Getting Things Done by David Allen recently and thinking about other ways to get closer to the “Mind Like Water” state and suddenly I’ve come up with a very simple, but useful lifehack for GMail. It aligns very well with all the recent trends in productivity, time management and lifestyle design set by Tim Ferriss in his Four Hour Workweek and assumes you should minimize all the unnecessary disturbances and batch your typical actions in order to save time.

So, what I did is very simple yet really helpful and I highly recommend you to try the same approach.

1. Create 2 labels in your GMail.

First one is “! once a wk” and another one “! once a mnth”.
The idea is to group all the not so important mail and not to get interrupted every two minutes. It doesn’t necessarily need to be once a month or once a week. Probably once a day and once a week will work better for you. Anyway, you got the basic principle.

2. Create filters for these labels.

For example:

Matches: subject:(“Facebook” OR “Linkedin”)
Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label “! once a wk

and

Matches: subject:(“Twitter” OR “Microsoft newsletter”)
Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label “! once a wk

Obviously, “Facebook”, “Linkedin”, “Twitter” and “Microsoft newsletter” are just examples. The point here is to put subjects or email addresses of those letters that you receive from time to time, but don’t need to read/process/reply the same second it’s received. It’s up to you to decide what these letters are, but I’m convinced that absolute majority of the letters fall into this category.

Then, you should tell your Gmail to apply the appropriate label for those letters and skip the inbox.

3. Schedule checks

Put view “once a week mail event and view once a month mail on your Google Calendar (or whatever calendar you’re using), make this event repeat every week/month correspondingly and create an email reminder.

3. Now, the most difficult step to actually practice: do not (do not!) check these two labels any other time than your scheduled time. I know these two labels look so yummy-yummy attractive when the number is more than zero, like in this screenshot (which is BTW the final result), but believe this is the habit worth developing.
gmail-gtd

Putting it all together.

So, if everything is done properly, you will have all the important mail (which is usually 1-10%) in your inbox right away and all the time consuming stuff (social networks, subscriptions, newsletters, etc) that prevents you from doing really important and inspirational things with your life will be held under two labels which are always available. Usually it takes very little time to process it all at once instead of doing it every single time when letter is delivered.

This is pretty much it. Good luck with implementing and improving! Hope, you won’t be spending the time saved in Twitter, but do something that you always wanted to start doing, but didn’t have enough time. And of course, I’m looking forward for your feedback!