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10 Things Every Employee Can Learn From Google

In the corporate world, Google is almost as famous for the innovative way it manages its employees as it is for its groundbreaking technology. Completely turning common convention on its head, Google has a lot of ideas about what makes for a good employee that a lot of other businesses disagreed with at first. Over time, though, they have been coming around, which is why you should be an expert in the qualifications Google has for an ideal employee. Here are 10 of them:

1. Be skilled, not just educated

Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google, opened up about the company’s strategies in a big way in a 2013 interview for The New York Times. One thing he mentioned was that Google placed a value on abilities rather than an impressive education. Bock said that, unless it’s someone only recently out of college, Google doesn’t judge applicants based on their G.P.A. To be the kind of employee Google wants, make sure you have practicable skills in addition to decent test scores.

2. Your ability to learn is more important than your current IQ

Bock also said that learning ability is a major factor for Google when deciding who to hire. It might be good to test higher on the charts in an IQ test right away, but that potential for growth makes all the difference. After all, who would you rather hire in the long term: the ninth-grader with a college education or someone who graduated from an Ivy League school in his twenties?

3. Expertise can be a hindrance

Experts are all too often stuck in their ways. They learned the exact right way to do things. A company like Google needs results that aren’t just accurate but innovative. Bock and other Google executives think that someone new to the technology field will likely have more original ideas than a veteran of the industry. Don’t be dissuaded if you’re not an expert in your particular field, because that could actually end up being a benefit.

4. Know when to lead and when to follow

According to Bock, Google wants “emergent leaders who are able to mix confidence and adaptability.” Emergent leaders know how to take the lead when that is what’s best for the project, but just as importantly they know when to step back and let someone more qualified take center stage. Bock has said that “what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.” Too many promising talents shoot themselves in the foot by stepping up every time, when once in a while they really need to sit down. Don’t make the same mistake.

5. Feel a sense of ownership over your work

You may be working on company time for the company dime, but Google wants you to be as committed to your work as if you have the only stakes in it. Treat every project you take on at your job like it is your reputation on the line, not just the company’s. Present your best self at all times.

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6. Go big or go home

Google Glass. Self-driving cars. Do these sound like small ideas to you? Google seems bored by small ideas, and would much rather see you take on something daring and innovative. Current chairman and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, once said, “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” Google comes up with ideas that guide a whole population’s future. Similarly, your boss at work is really going to take notice if you’re the one teaching him.

7. Look for the unexpected

A lot of technology Google created, starting from the search engine and going all the way to the self-driving cars, was unheard of or inconceivable when Google introduced it. Schmidt said, “Our business strategy is not to compete.” The company, instead of fighting for a slice of a pie, decides to make whole new pies. You should also be coming up with new ways to find success as an employee.

8. Don’t focus on making money right away

Google believes that the priority of a product should at first be that it creates value. A lot of Google’s projects had no way of making money when they were first introducted, but that changed after Google made the products indispensable for consumers and slowly introduced a way to profit off of them. Google entrepreneur Astro Teller points this out in an interview for the BBC, saying, “Things like search or translate, things like maps, have been in the public domain free to the users but often without advertising or any form of compensation–sometimes for many years–when Google didn’t make money on it or even have a plan to make money on it and Google was just ‘Let’s make value for the users. We’ll figure out how to make money later’.” This is a hard tip to do in a more traditional business environment, but try to focus on value first and figure out how to make money off your creation later.

9. Devote time to other projects

Every Friday Google employees come into the office to work on something other than what they devoted the other days of the week to. This led to a lot of innovations that would go on to define Google, like Gmail. Astro Teller, the overseer of the audacious Google[x], said that to succeed at those projects, “there has to be a problem that we can identify, and sometimes that’s harder than you would think.” But, once you figure out a problem that can be solved, Google employees tackle it head on. Like Google, set aside some of your time to do work that’s a little off from center.

10. Failure is a necessary step towards success

For every Gmail, there are a dozen other projects that didn’t go anywhere and were forgotten. Even the highly-publicized Google Glass hardware has been far from a smashing success. Google understands that those missteps are crucial to getting to the place where you can make a big leap. Don’t be afraid to fail because it shows that you are trying, and can be a step towards your next success.

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