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Decide Out Loud, Former Google CIO Advises

Douglas Merrill, former CIO and vice president of engineering at Google, gave NACHA Payments attendees tips on innovation during a luncheon speech. The audience was very attentive and seemed to agree with his key points, which included these:

Douglas Merrill, former CIO and vice president of engineering at Google, gave NACHA Payments attendees tips on innovation during a luncheon speech. The audience was very attentive and seemed to agree with his key points, which included these:Innovate in increments. Google has made very small changes over time in the way it presents search results, for instance, providing spell correction when users misspell a search term (e.g. Brittany Spears instead of Britney Spears) raised click-through rates significantly.

Decide out loud. "At Google we live out loud, decisions are made openly," he said. "Everybody has a voice, not everybody has a vote."

Ideas come from everywhere. Merrill gave the example of how Google changed its employee review system to an approach where each quarter, each employee's peers are given three questions to answer in 50 words or less: what is this person good at, what are they bad at, and what should they do next. It's a quick, simple review that has yielded much better results, he says.

Listen to users. But don't ask them, via conventional methods such as surveys and focus groups, he cautions, because often they don't know. Simply track their behavior.

Hire diversity. Chaos breeds innovation, he said. It's uncomfortable to hire people who think differently than you do and it can lead to conflict and contention. But that's how good ideas originate and live.

People will do what you measure. Be careful what you measure and incent people to do, Merrill cautioned, because that's what they will do.

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