3 Big Rules Of Innovation From The Google Guy Behind Android And Chrome

Google SVP Jonathan Rosenberg might be the reason Google has an open culture–and why Chrome and Android flourished. Here he opens up on innovative thinking.

3 Big Rules Of Innovation From The Google Guy Behind Android And Chrome

There’s a tiny company called Google that’s made a few important products, two of which are Chrome and Android. Those were animated by SVP of products Jonathan Rosenberg, whose Meaning of Open blog post acted as a manifesto, distilling the search giant’s philosophy on openness into actionable insights.


Talking to his alma mater at Claremont McKenna College, Rosenberg gave us more of them, particularly regarding how to manage innovation. Let’s get into them.

You can’t manage creativity

Creativity is an emergent process. Instead of being commanded (or shamed) into existence, it needs to be courted, like its sibling, serendipity.

“Creativity can be allocated, it can be budgeted, it can be measured, it can be tracked and encouraged,” Rosenberg says, “but it can’t be dictated.”

Encourage all of em

It’s tempting to kill off ideas–might be an outgrowth of our distrust of self-proclaimed visionaries. But rather than tamping down what you take to be the wrong answers, Rosenberg emphasizes that if given enough openness, the best ideas will win out.

He explains:

“In a Darwinian process for weeding out the bad ideas, you will do best by encouraging all of them. The best will win and the others will fail. Thomas Edison said, ‘To have a great idea, have a lot of them.’”

We’ve realized similar things about dealing well with criticism: The point is to expand, diversify, and ground the ideas themselves, not the egos that they spring from.


Yes: a cure for antibodies

To give us reason for optimism, Rosenberg invokes the Innovators’ Dilemma–the all-to-familiar trend of organizations hardening against new thinking as they get bigger and bigger.

“Organizations develop antibodies to change,” he says. “That’s why big companies stop innovating. If you’re the innovator, you’re like a virus. The antibodies want to kill you.”

The role of the leader, then, is to inoculate against that autoimmune crisis: by saying yes, yes, and yes–and in so doing, keeping the momentum of the organization growing.

[Image: Flickr user Darren Harvey]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.