Celebrate wrong decisions

Celebrate wrong decisions

Google X is an initiative of Google and its mission is to invent and to launch technologies that can make the world a radically better place.  The solutions and the concepts they have invented are truly impressive.  They are the guys behind the self-driving-car Waymo, Google Glass or the project Makani to produce wind energy using kites.  I'm sure you have also heard of Project Loon, which is a project that aims to bring internet access to everyone by creating an internet network of balloons flying through the stratosphere.  But Google X, which is in fact quite a secretive organisation, is doing so much more. 

For instance, they have also worked on the idea of automated vertical farming.  They have designed an extremely light cargo ship to float through the air and to ship goods worldwide.  They have built a safe jetpack; a kind of a flying machine to enable people to travel over larger distances.  Furthermore, Google X has been working on the design of a space elevator.  They have invested time and resources into the possibility of teleportation - like the Star Trek-style "beam me up" type of teleportation.  All great initiatives.  However, what do all these initiatives have in common?  They were all killed - for a wide variety of reasons.  So people had worked on a specific project for many months and after some time, they decided to put it on hold and focus on another project. 

What I find so remarkable at Google X is that the people who are involved in failed projects get rewarded.  Let me quote Astro Teller, the CEO of Google X: “We work hard at Google X to make it safe to fail. Teams kill their ideas as soon as the evidence is on the table because they are rewarded for it. They get applause from their peers. Hugs and high fives from their manager, me in particular. They get promoted for it. We have bonused every single person on teams that ended their projects, from teams as small as two to teams of more than 30”. 

So, in fact, what Google X is doing is this: celebrating wrong decisions as learning opportunities. What about your company?  Are you also celebrating your failures?  Think about it: the road to new insights and new ideas is almost never a straight line.  And in an ambiguous or uncertain context, you will sometimes make the wrong decisions.  And that should be OK.  Even more: taking a wrong decision is sometimes better than taking no decision at all...

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