How to Apply Google’s Pillars of Innovation to Your Life

How to Apply Google’s Pillars of Innovation to Your Life

“Fail early, fail often, fail forward”

My latest read is “Bold” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The book explores innovation through radically changing industries; fueled by exponential technology, and the use of automation, networks and leveraging of the crowd. The authors give practical insight into several  such technologies and the entrepreneurial mindset (THINK BIG!) need to exploit them.

As stated in the introduction, “Right now, and for the first time ever, a passionate and committed individual has access to the technology, minds, and capital required to take on any challenge.”

One of the many references that caught my attention was the description of Google’s 8 Pillars of Innovation, published in 2011 by Google’s then Senior Vice President of Advertising, Susan Wojcicki.

These pillars serve as Google’s guiding light to stay creative, innovative, and aggressive with their ideas and product designs. Bundled together, and you can see why Google has been able to “see around the corner” time and again, forming the juggernaut that it is today.

The great thing about these pillars is the ease in which you can apply them to your own life. In this article, I am going to look at each one in detail and describe how these pillars can lead to a more fulfilled, successful lifestyle FOR YOU. I will also make reference to Bold, as many of the concepts overlap with the Google pillar’s.

Whether you run your own business (or side-business), or just want to improve on a personal level, these pillars will drastically change your outlook and critical thinking process.

Here are Google’s 8 Pillars of Innovation:

  1. Have a Mission that Matters
  2. Think Big but Start Small
  3. Strive for Continual Innovation, not Instant Perfection
  4. Look for Ideas Everywhere
  5. Share Everything
  6. Spark with Imagination, Fuel with Data
  7. Be a platform
  8. Never Fail to Fail

1. Have a Mission that Matters

Work can be more than a job when it stands for something you care about.


Our mission is one that has the potential to touch many lives, and we make sure that all our employees feel connected to it and empowered to help achieve it.

This pillar is the motto for Shameless Pride. No matter your undertaking in life, it’s imperative that it aligns with your passions and values.

You’ve been pounded with cliché beliefs; grind to the point of misery and it will be worth it. You were told that you need to work 24/7 while you’re young to be free when you’re older. This is a terrible idea unless your main hustle evokes an unquenchable hunger from within each time you work on it.

So many people waste their lives in pursuit of an empty paycheck while letting boredom, stress, and complacency dominates their lives. This easy money becomes a mirage, a crutch even, keeping you just comfortable enough to forgo a life of your choosing.

Alignment is everything.

Your values, core beliefs, and life purpose should be connected. You achieve mastery and flow from being “all in.” You can only be “all in” when it matters deeply to you. You’ll never be able  give 100% to something you don’t care about wholeheartedly. It’s simply impossible.

Money is only an incentive up to a certain amount (despite what you’ve been told).

Money is an external motivator. After money takes care of your biological needs (and some extra for discretionary spending), it stops working as a motivating tool. In fact, once these needs are met, money (and workplace promotions) have been shown to have the opposite effect; lowering motivation and decreasing performance (think about your typical corporate structure).

This is where internal rewards come into play.

Diamandis and Kotler mention three specific internal motivators:

  1. Autonomy: Desire to control your own path
  2. Mastery: Desire to become an expert at your craft
  3. Purpose: Desire for your life and occupation to have meaning and fulfillment

This trio of intrinsic rewards needs to be present in your life if you are going to maximize your opportunities and find lasting purpose. Find something that hits all three, and you’ve hit the jackpot.

2. Think Big but Start Small

From the article:

No matter how ambitious the plan, you have to roll up your sleeves and start somewhere.

You want a big mindset combined with realistic expectations. Aim to help billions, but feel ecstatic to help one person. Start small, but think scale; everything you do today should be scalable once the time is right.

Most people fall short due to unrealistic expectations and poor time management. Another hindrance is a lack of clear cut goals. Your goals don’t exist (aren’t clearly written), or they are too complex.

Do you think up a grand plan, but never get started because it seems too daunting?

This can easily be corrected by breaking goals into easily manageable chunks, called sub-goals. “Think challenging yet manageable” says Diamandis and Kotler. You want to be able to concentrate on the here and now, and sub-goals allow such clarity and ease of thought.

How to Apply Google’s Pillars of Innovation to Your Life

Setting big, but realistic goals allow you better use of your time; a critical, yet vastly overlooked part of success. Once you have a detailed list of achievable goals, your brain spends less time thinking about the daunting steps needed to complete the project. It is free to focus on the creation process, because you are taking baby steps and achieving manageable milestones.

3. Strive for Continual Innovation, not Instant Perfection

From the article:

The best part of working on the web? We get do-overs. Lots of them.


Our iterative process often teaches us invaluable lessons. Watching users ‘in the wild’ as they use our products is the best way to find out what works, then we can act on that feedback. It’s much better to learn these things early and be able to respond than to go too far down the wrong path.

True innovation, just like success, takes time. There will be roadblocks and challenges along the way. Ideas might seem promising at first, but end up going nowhere. Such is the life of a producer. Don’t let this discourage you.

The key is to never stop working on new ideas. See the world around you as an idea bank. No idea is too big, or too unrealistic. With such an abundant mindset, you are bound to stumble into a worthwhile venture that you can take to the next level.

4. Look for Ideas Everywhere

From the article:

As the leader of our Ads products, I want to hear ideas from everyone – and that includes our partners, advertisers and all of the people on my team. I also want to be a part of the conversations Googlers are having in the hallways.

Exponential technology has changed the world, especially when it comes to idea generation. Bold mentions crowdsourcing as a relatively new platform that allows creators to get quick feedback on any idea, no matter how crazy or outlandish it may seem. You’ll never know until you commit yourself and be willing to submit your creation to potential criticism.

Most people waste a lot of time on projects that aren’t viable due to the simple fact that the idea is boring or the market is over saturated. It’s easy to see something else and try to replicate such efforts, but by doing this, you are failing to create anything unique and different. You are just another voice in an overcrowded space.

How to Apply Google’s Pillars of Innovation to Your Life

People naturally embrace the herd mentality and this applies to ideas as well. You’re taught to think rationally and realistically – to shun big, seemingly impossible ideas. However, an outlandish thought process is the core approach of the behemoth 21st Century companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Thinking big has allowed these companies to dust their old school competitors. Apply big thinking and not only will you differentiate yourself from the boring crowd, but you might uncover the solution to a problem that affects millions.

5. Share Everything

From the article:

By sharing everything, you encourage the discussion, exchange and re-interpretation of ideas, which can lead to unexpected and innovative outcomes. We try to facilitate this by working in small, crowded teams in open cube arrangements, rather than individual offices.

Social media networks, especially Twitter, allow you to share ideas, thoughts, and opinions with other like-minded (and supportive people). Here you can get immediate feedback on a blog article, idea, or product.

Technology has led to the sharing of immense amounts of quality data and expertise. Feedback is often immediate and this crucial development allows you to stop projects that aren’t well received, and focus on those that people are interested in.

Remember: This trial and error process ensures constant failure. This is a good thing. Nothing was ever perfected overnight.

Always be utilizing feedback!

6. Spark with Imagination, Fuel with Data

From the article:

In our fast-evolving market, it’s hard for people to know, or even imagine, what they want. That’s why we recruit people who believe the impossible can become a reality.


We try to encourage this type of blue-sky thinking through ‘20 percent time’ – a full day a week during which engineers can work on whatever they want.


What begins with intuition is fueled by insights. If you’re lucky, these reinforce one another.

Success metrics are vital. Always measure your progress.

You start by thinking big and looking everywhere for ideas (as already discussed). From there, data becomes your measuring stick. You quantify your results and discard what isn’t working to focus on what is. It’s never easy to walk away from an opportunity, but it’s the only way to make sure you don’t waste time, effort, and capital on something that will be unsuccessful.

7. Be a Platform

From the article:

There is so much awe-inspiring innovation being driven by people all over the globe. That’s why we believe so strongly in the power of open technologies. They enable anyone, anywhere, to apply their unique skills, perspectives and passions to the creation of new products and features on top of our platforms.

Be your own platform. Build on past achievements. Treat the process as a puzzle, once piece at a time until you have a completed, diverse selection representing your brand.

Google is famous for its open-sourced technology, which has allowed developers to build and grow the company’s ecosystem, at no cost to Google. Brainstorm ways in which you can incorporate outside help from the crowd, that help both your brand and advances someone else’s ideas.

8. Never Fail to Fail

From the article:

The thing is, people remember your hits more than your misses. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and correct them fast. Trust me, we’ve failed plenty of times. Knowing that it’s okay to fail can free you up to take risks. And the tech industry is so dynamic that the moment you stop taking risks is the moment you get left behind.


A set of strong common principles for a company makes it possible for all its employees to work as one and move forward together. We just need to continue to say ‘yes’ and resist a culture of ‘no’, accept the inevitability of failures, and continue iterating until we get things right.

You have to learn to love failure. View failure as achievement as long as it’s harnessed into experience and knowledge.

Be aware of the dead ends, roadblocks, and stumbles you will inevitably experience. Be ready to work for months, even years, before your goal comes to fruition. The greatest achievements known to man often took years, even decades, before they were perfected and mass produced.

What linked such marvelous inventions?

The willingness of the innovators to fail over and over.

How to Apply Google’s Pillars of Innovation to Your Life

When it comes to your creative work, patience is key. It’s never been easier to get frustrated, or worse, distracted by another, seemingly easier venture. Too many undertakings will leave you stuck in place. You need to be fully invested in your one great idea, and see it through the up’s and the down’s until it comes to fruition. The path towards fulfillment is littered with fallen comrades who didn’t have the self-belief to keep on pushing forward.

Final Thoughts

Big thinking leads to differentiation, a crucial piece to any success story. It pays to be different. Think outside the box. Here are some wrap-up questions to ask yourself, incorporating the pillars above:

  • What qualities do I have that I can use to fill a need?

  • Am I brainstorming enough big ideas every day?

  • Am I patient? Am I okay with failing?

  • Are my goals in line with my schedule and capacity to take on new work?

  • Am I maximizing the opinions and feedback of my networks?

Innovative thinking isn’t easy, as it goes against the regimented routine you’ve been taught your entire life. There is no script for this.

You must work hard to make big ideas part of your DNA. But it’s possible.

Think big. Ask questions. Embrace failure.

P.S. Click here to buy BOLD. Click here to read more on Google’s 7 Pillars.

Screenshot 2015-11-21 at 12.56.17 PM

How are you using exponential technologies? Any questions or feedback? Comment below.

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