How Google Kills Ideas to Drive Killer Innovation

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

According to its tombstone, Trendalyzer was a data trend viewing platform that lived a happy life from 2007-2017. Latitude, a location-aware feature of Google Maps, was just over 4 years old before it was euthanized in 2013. Fabric, a platform that helped mobile teams build better apps, was sentenced to death after only one month of life. All in, there are 161 current residents of the Google graveyard, on full display to the world at

Of course, the tech giant has enjoyed tremendous success, even becoming an often-used verb ("to Google"). With $136.8 billion in 2018 revenue, the company is valued today at over $860 billion. With such incredible performance, it would be easy to assume the company never fails. Yet the way the organization embraces failure has actually helped vault them to legendary performance.

We are taught in school that failure is the worst possible thing, an evil to be avoided at all costs. Yet time and time again, the most successful companies and careers have proven that missteps are not fatal. Rather, failure is the lifeblood of innovation. Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

At Google, celebrating failure - from the daily disasters to the colossal catastrophes - removes fear and enables creativity. Think about the message that having a public graveyard of killed ideas sends to the nearly 100,0000 Google team members: That all ideas are celebrated, that we can use the data of failure to enable new successes, that it takes some busted initiatives to facilitate breakthrough innovation. It also shows that Google is willing to swing for the fences and willing to let go of previous efforts to discover new ones.

Failure is a part of life and a part of business. If you’re not stumbling at times, you’re probably not trying hard enough. But how does your organization react when the chips fall in an undesirable manner? Do you hide the gaffes, pretending that mistakes never happen? Or do you celebrate them for what they are an inevitable part of the innovation process? By publicly and firmly embracing blunders, you actually liberate creativity. Fear is the kryptonite of innovation; whereas celebrating the losses can become your organization's superpower.

With their history-making success, Google is so proud of their 161 failures, they even built a website of tribute. For you, remove the dark cloud of judgment, eradicate the fear of taking responsible risks, congratulate the smart ideas that didn't eventually work out, and in turn you will harness the incredible creativity of your team. A force that lies dormant in most companies, but can be your most powerful competitive weapon if harnessed.

Here’s to your failures, and as a result, your success.

The post How Google Kills Ideas to Drive Killer Innovation appeared first on Josh Linkner.

What a French Creole Cooking Term Can Teach Us About Customer Loyalty
After finishing an incredible meal in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the best part of the experience may very well be the lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap). While it sounds like a fancy seafood dish, a lagniappe is actually an unexpected gift. That special dessert, complements of the chef. The small box of chocolates for you to take home. Th...
Read More
An Innovative Way to Improve Behavior
Early education in high-risk urban areas is a complex and seemingly overwhelming challenge. Often dubbed the "school to prison pipeline," kids in troubled classrooms with negative peer influences and little family support too often end up incarcerated or repeating the cycle of poverty. Despite committed teachers and administrators, these problem...
Read More
What Business Leaders Can Learn from 100-Year-Olds in Okinawa
The Japanese island of Okinawa boasts the highest life expectancy, and the greatest concentration of centenarians (people who live to 100), in the world. Their culture, rituals, diet, and environment have been the subject of extensive study as researchers try to crack the code of a longer, healthier life. When questioned why their people are ...
Read More
When We Stop Doing The Things That Made Us Great
Last weekend, I went to one of Detroit's most celebrated Italian restaurants. I'd been years ago and anticipated the same exquisite experience. Known for their impeccable service and inspired dishes, I was expecting them to nail every detail like they had in the past. Yet the very things that made them successful had obviously been significan...
Read More
The Hard Part
Whether you are running a startup, building a relationship, or rebuilding a community, there's an easy part and a hard part. One requires less work in the moment while the other unlocks the potential of your efforts and concurrently is your playground for personal growth. Those comfortable things that require little thinking, risk, or effort ...
Read More
You're Always Auditioning
Think about how you shined during the interview where landed you your job. You were prepared to impress, fully engaged, and leaning forward with enthusiasm. Acutely aware that you were being evaluated, you made sure your answers were crisp and your questions were thoughtful. Simply put, you were ON. Unfortunately, that moment is the brightest...
Read More
One Word That Will Change Your Entire Outlook
As busy people, we often sprint from one obligation to the next. The mandatory client meeting, the business lunch, the kid's soccer game all while keeping your seven social media streams up to date, your boss happy, and your family fed. In the modern age, we can feel overwhelmed with all the things we just have to do. When the events in our liv...
Read More
Making Mistakes
In school, we're taught that mistakes should be avoided at all costs. We learn that getting something wrong somehow means that we're wrong as a human beings, that each mistake translates to a lower self-worth score. These dreaded slip-ups can be so hurtful that we learn to recoil from the very thought of stumbling, much like we avoid the hot sto...
Read More
The Mother of Dragons
Spoiler Alert! (if you haven't caught up on GOT, stop reading and JUMP to "SPOILER START" below) Wow. How incredible that the woman who built her career on kindness and empathy turned every heartfelt follower to ash this week. The power of the loyalty that she built was, prior to this week, unstoppable. Her motives pure and sincere, and those th...
Read More
The Last 10%
I was nearing the end of my three-mile run (I'm no marathon candidate), and was feeling awful. Tired, hot, sore, and ready to throw in the towel. Looking at the fitness app on my phone, I realized that I only had 10% remaining. As much as I wanted to quit, I forged ahead and completed the full run as planned. That moment of difficulty, angst, an...
Read More