Bottoms Up!

The other day Chris Sacca of Google proposed that Whole Foods should harness the talents of its workers by giving them more autonomy. The idea is to take advantage of the resulting bottoms-up bubbling of ideas, i.e. The Google Way ™:

At Google, the employees are encouraged to constantly innovate and create new and better products. Small teams are given the resources to experiment with new product ideas and have the freedom to launch new initiatives even at early stages in their development. There is very little centralized planning. Instead, innovation bubbles up from the engineers and product managers themselves as they dream up new ways to solve end-user problems.

That is all well and good, and sounds great in theory. But having had several leadership experiences under my belt, I know managing this process would not be easy. I wonder how this really works in practice? I posted the following comment in reply:

This is what we have all heard about Google as well… But how does it work in practice?

What I mean is, new services from Google are always launched in an orderly fashion. This implies some “culling” of ideas before they are officially launched, and it also implies that some initiatives are NOT launched. If every team truly has the freedom to launch anything, then your service offerings would, it seems to me, be a huge unruly mess.

Where/how does this culling take place? How do you avoid bruised egos from canned initiatives, if everyone is “supposed” to have the freedom to launch anything?

If anybody has an opinion on this, I’m all ears.

As an aside, I met Chris Sacca at Startup School ’05 hosted by Paul Graham, and he is a top-notch speaker. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, go!

1 comment
  1. Glen said:

    BTW, Fred, you might wish to consider starting a Yahoo! Groups mailing list or group for communication and monthly or so after-work gatherings between barcamp/democamp sessions.

    Yahoo! Groups I believe is free, the Northern Virginia Java Users group[1] relies on it and it does a fine job.[2] charges US$72 every six months for the organizer (attendees are free), but if you go this route, I suspect it would not be hard to find company sponsorship of it.




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