In late July, Google announced changes for Google+, which many perceived as the onset of the “dismantling” of Google+. We’ve been reading up on the various perspectives about “failure” of the big initiative, including a thorough article posted first on Mashable last week.
Google made a big bet in an effort to directly compete with Facebook, and it didn’t work out so well.
But, failure is always an opportunity to learn, so from our perspective, here are 4 lessons that corporations can learn from what went wrong with Google+:
1. Get the insight right. People weren’t looking for newer, better social network. They were already socially invested in Facebook, many of them wary after a breakup with MySpace. Shifting to a new social network just wasn’t a need. They were looking for new ways to share videos and pictures (hence, Instagram’s quick uptake) and expanding their work network (hence LinkedIn’s tremendous growth over the past several years), but communities were already entrenched in Facebook as a social network. So, the first mistake Google made was finding an insight or a need that wasn’t being met…or to find needs or dissatisfiers that weren’t being addressed by Facebook. Instead, they were banking on the same needs Facebook had already captured and met.
2. Build organically. Google knows how to build new initiatives with small teams that iterate and pivot as they grow, but in this case, as the mashable article explains, Google created a monstrous team of 1,000, siphoned them to a separate building and put them on a fast track to deliver scale way too early in the development process. The bias for action led the huge team to blow through insights and feedback that seemed to give clear warning that pivots were needed, even very early in Google+ development. And, they worked tirelessly to scale a solution that wasn’t clearly differentiated.
3. Listen. According to the article, and the stream of comments on Google’s blogpost, there were plenty of indications from users and non-using consumers about Google+ — complaints about forced integration with other tools and services like YouTube; lack of clarity on the purpose and differentiation of Google+ compared to other platforms, like Facebook. Google’s broadscale reach was a tremendous source of input and feedback. Unfortunately, Google failed to pivot based on this feedback and instead put their resources behind continued adoption and scale objectives.
4. Innovate from strength, not threat. Unfortunately, Google employees have shared that the tenor and tone of the Google+ experience was one of fear and threat. Fear of failure driven by high-bar goals and incentives tied to the success of Google+. Fear, in fact motivated the initiative from its inception: “Vic (Gundotra, Google+ chief architect) was just this constant bug in Larry’s ear: ‘Facebook is going to kill us. Facebook is going to kill us,'” says a former Google executive. “I am pretty sure Vic managed to frighten Larry into action. And voila: Google+ was born.” Google, for its strength and scale, would have more likely been successful innovating from areas of strength, rather than areas of threat by a fast growing and very well entrenched Facebook. Seth Fiegerman, the author of the article, said it well: “The slow demise of Google+ sheds light on how a large technology company tries and often fails to innovate when it feels threatened.”
Clearly, Google maintains strength and lots of user loyalty. So, we’re excited to see how they learn from this well-publicized failure. And, we’re grateful for the lessons learned.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: btwashburn
The Garage Group enables corporate teams to innovate and grow like startups, including identification of ripe insights and generation and development of product and service initiatives.