35 Simplicity Sprint
For turning a moment of organizational uncertainty into a crowdsourced examination of company culture
When a company sees its growth plateau or its innovation stagnate, the go-to answer is typically a hard crackdown on productivity or an empty pep talk. As is its wont, Google decided to take a different tack. Faced with weaker-than-expected earnings of late, company leaders didn’t try to pretend they knew the answers. Instead, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and other top brass at the Silicon Valley behemoth masterminded what they called a Simplicity Sprint, a crowdsourcing project to gather insights from every member of the company’s workforce over a two-week period. (Yes, every member: The initiative was announced at an all-hands meeting of its 176,000 full-time employees.)
Released in July, the survey included three questions that admittedly possessed a philosophical bent, but were grounded in the day-to-day processes that make Google tick:
- What would help you work with greater clarity and efficiency to serve our users and customers?
- Where should we remove speed bumps to get to better results faster?
- How do we eliminate waste and stay entrepreneurial and focused as we grow?
The questions come with incentives. If an employee’s idea rises to the top, it earns them a chat with senior staff, in a radical upending of the typical top-down decrees of the tech world. As Pichai explained at the sprint’s unveiling, it’s time to “create a culture that is more mission-focused, more focused on our products, more customer-focused” as a way to “get better results faster.”
After the project’s announcement, Pichai said he hoped to make the company 20 percent more productive. The tech giant has already cut funding and jobs at its in-house tech incubator, trimmed business travel and announced the shutdown of its videogame streaming service, Stadia.
Now comes the big question: Do any of the responses the company received during its first sprint lay out a better path forward?