Google, Applied Materials execs debate how taking risks fosters collaboration

Summary:How does a company properly foster "a culture of risk taking" -- especially amid a very uneasy global economic climate?

network-globe

BERKELEY, CALIF. -- Everyone in business and technology love to toss around the word "innovation" haphazardly, but at its core, perhaps it would be better to define it as plain old risk taking.

See also on SmartPlanet: Panel: ‘Reverse innovation’ serving, creating new markets

Speaking during a panel discussion at The Economist's 2013 Innovation Forum on Thursday, executives from technology and healthcare industries discussed how any kind of sustainable model for innovation requires "a culture of risk taking."

But how does a company properly foster that -- especially amid a very uneasy global economic climate?

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, suggested it starts with the recruitment process, which is complex (to say the least) for the Mountain View, Calif.-headquartered company, which has millions of applicants each year.

But Bock stressed that the Internet giant looks to hire for capability before expertise. That in itself could be viewed as a major risk considering you could be hiring someone who doesn't have enough experience to make founded business decisions.

Bock explained that Google would rather hire "smart, curious people" over experts because someone in the former category is "90 percent" more likely to come up with a "pretty good answer" to a potential problem or question.

Bock admitted that "you need a mix," but he stipulated that Google still skews heavily towards this interest in curious people.

Mary Humiston, senior vice president of global human resources at Applied Materials, described a new program at the semiconductor company dubbed "Innovation Academy." The project includes a program that brings together technologists from various verticals within the company, such as solar or displays, to discuss and try to answer some of the highest-value customer problems.

While Humiston hinted that the program is still in its infancy, even just after a year, she highlighted that the sessions have led to approximately $3 billion in revenue opportunities for Applied Materials.

Martin Giles, U.S. technology correspondent at The Economist and the panel's moderator, asked pointedly what about motivating employees with cash.

Bock immediately shut the concept down, citing studies that such incentives don't really foster innovation.

Humiston pointed towards leveraging crowd-sourcing models for internal competition with a potential reward being corporate funding for winning ideas.

Topics: Tech Industry, Cloud, Google, Mobility, Networking

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.