Simplifying big ideas


Last week I had the great honour of meeting with Google/Alphabet’s former CFO Patrick Pichette.

I was the interviewer and Patrick was the interviewee at CPA Congress. I wanted to call it “In significantly better conversation with Tim” but I thought discretion, rather than valour, when I saw my good mate Alex Malley’s face on the billboard at the airport again. Oh well, Patrick and I thought it was pretty good anyway!

You know when you meet someone who has the ability to simplify big, and complex, ideas into simple and easily understood concepts?

Like how does Google prioritise all the investment opportunities it is confronted with? Thousands of very clever people all encouraged to innovate. Lots of ideas.

But you’d need a department just to vet them. And bureaucracy is not a good thing, right? A stifler of innovation (btw, another big idea)…

So how do you rank these ideas? And how do you harness the energy and excitement that goes into developing them?

Start by having a very simple purpose as a company. Information is everywhere and people need it and use it, anywhere. Doing good, not evil. Make the world a better place. ( Ok. Simple.

So to achieve those goals, do big things. No point in investing time in things that aren’t going to have a real impact on achieving the purpose.

So how prioritise all those opportunities?

Start by acknowledging money isn’t the issue in Google’s case.

Then recognise that to have an impact on the world you need to reach the world, or a big part of it. Not Connecticut, not New South Wales, not Marahastra. A big part of the world.

Then define a simple rule.

1 billion users or bust.

Have an idea that 1 billion people will use, or don’t bother.

A big idea radically simplified.

A simple purpose, a simple measure, and game changing concept.

Because it makes decision making easier. And it means people think of big stuff, not small stuff. A game that slices fruit, or chases augmented funny objects, is not a bad idea. It can be large and very successful. But if your objective is to make the world a better place, it just won’t cut it,

Now, Patrick acknowledges that Google is a unique place.

But need it be?

Disrupting yourself with big ideas consistent with your purpose when things are going well is actually everyone’s job. I’ve done it professionally including very recently 🙂 ! And it’s the right thing to think about and do.

Its common sense, right?

But you know what they say about common sense…


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