Larry Page: Why he didn’t Google for ideas

Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting. ~ Larry Page

Larry Page’s Google has been ranked 1st among the best companies to work for by Fortune in 2014. The founder CEO himself has been the powerhouse of ideas that gave rise to applications, which are responsible for the whole world relying on them. When Google Inc., the extension of a research project he took up with Sergey Brin at Stanford University, was launched in 1998, Page was just 25. Bursting with ideas and armed with dreams to change the world, young Page had little patience when it came to employee matters and was infamous in his network for openly dissing ideas he thought were irrelevant. The environment at Google then was extremely competitive – a culture that revered ideas but had no room for emotional nuances.

The Google Toolbar Story

In 2000, Google hired talent in the form of Wesley Chan to pioneer the Google Toolbar project, which was a tool to carry out searches on the net without launching Microsoft Explorer. Chan realised that the Google Toolbar was low on popularity because there was no special significance attached to it, and users didn’t find its presence important. He suggested the tool be clubbed with a pop-up blocking algorithm, to bring the user’s notice to it and eventually increase their reliance on it.

When Chan proposed this to Page, Page was resistant and dismissed the idea as “the dumbest thing he had ever heard”.

Actions speak louder than words

Determined to make his idea tick, Chan decided to take the dismissal as an encouragement and secretly installed the application on Page’s system. Unbeknownst to Page, the application led to a drastic reduction of pop ups on the system and he happened to exclaim at a meeting about the welcome change. This was met by Chan’s explanation.

The Google Toolbar was thus born, and Page realised that he would have to do away with delegating tasks to his employees, to encourage them to step forward with fresh ideas.

Action Summary

  • Recognise and respect everyone’s ideas in your organisation. There may be one that changes the way people look at the world.

  • One needs to look beyond age, designation and experience when working on an innovation. Never underestimate the power of an idea based on these aspects.

~ Atrija Gaur