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    Keynote by Tom Uglow, creative director for Google and Youtube in Europe

    Tom Uglow is the creative director for Google and Youtube in Europe. He talks about the importance of trying, even if you fail: It has never been possible to succesfully pull something off 100 pct.. Rather, making mistakes is a part of the process – often you don’t know what the answer is, so you have to explore. And often it goes wrong.

    Tom Uglow works in the creative labs of Google and Youtube. He puts an emphasis on “lab”: They are exploring and making experiments. In short, his job is to think like a user and make sophisticated tools. Making (beautiful) mistakes is a part of the process.

    One example is the Androidify app. The app allows you to make yourself into a android avatar. Google didn’t really know what to do with it and just sat on it for a while. Then, at a mobile conference, they decided to release. It was an instantaneous success and everybody at the conference loved it. These kinds of beautiful mistakes are natural parts of the creative lab.

    Tom Uglow compares innovation with children’s’ play: It often looks like fun and play. In companies, the innovation process is a lot similar: If you’re not having fun, it’s impossible to generate excitement for your project.

    Often, internet phenomenon just sort of happen: Charlie Sheen became an overnight internet meme with his bewildering “Winning”-song. He got 1 mil. followers on Twitter 24 hours after he created an account. The Charlie Sheen effect shows that information is an uncontrollable wave – no one is in charge and everyone can chime in with their own representation.

    Tom Uglow thinks the future of digital is really physical. Actual things are nice: Augmented reality is awkward. He lists 7 ideas that are not that hard to imagine in the future:

    1) Eye-tracking as targeting: Relevant content is being loaded when the user is moving his eyes around the web page.

    2) Function-led display advertising: HTML5 makes banner advertisements into user-oriented microsites. The best ads will actually be useful to the user.

    3) Ad network loyalty programs: Ads become more personal and limited.

    4) User-led advertainment: Ads become stories that can unfold at the users’ pace.

    5) User-focused microdonations systems: Even small donations like 1 USD can become substantial if it is easy to donate and a lot of people do it.

    6) Data streams will be personal: Your gadgets will provide you with automated information like your pulse, temperature, location, blood sugar etc: Instead of looking up the information, the information comes to you.

    7) Geo-location/time-based arts: Arts using mobile participation and iterative dramas. Theatres using NCF and GPS.


    Everybody knows Google. The brand, the search engine that since 1998 has gone from being unknown to becoming one of the world’s largest companies.

    Most people will also recognize the Google mantra “Don’t be evil”. This is a mantra, which in recent years has been tarnished. Especially in connection to Google Maps’ launch of Street View. And one might think such mistake could give rise to red-faces in the board of directors and dismissals further down in the organization. Not necessarily.

    One of the key elements to Google’s success comes from the ability and the will to rise again after the occurrence of a mistake. Mistakes are simply a part of the company, which is reflected in the company’s nine rules of innovation.

    1. Innovation, not instant perfection

    There are in general two ways to approach software development. You either code for years until you end up with the completely perfect, shiny, and infallible product. Or you release a product on the market, and make adjustments along the way. The latter is the classic Google way of doing things (Google has a long and proud history of beta), and it allows development of a released product. For that exact purpose the company has its own playground, Google Labs. All possibly viable ideas end up at Google Labs, and from there they can be developed interactively. Sometimes they end up with a real Google product, at other times the product is simply being removed quietly from the Lab when it has been tested.

2. Ideas occur everywhere 

    Knowledge sharing is a key expertise. Google has an internal platform onto which the employees can post their ideas. Their Google colleagues are afterwards able to have a look and review the ideas and potentially cooperate on developing them.

3. License to follow your dreams

    Cooperation and development of the employees’ own ideas and of business potentials, is exactly the key behind the famous 20% rule of Google. In short terms the employees are allowed to spend 20% of their working hours on “individual projects”. You can compare it to spare time, which the company pays for, and Google only benefits from it, if the ideas are good enough. Thankfully it is working. Google Wave, which is now closed down, and Google Chrome, which is alive and kicking are both results of the 20% rule.

4. Fuse projects – don’t kill them

    When a project struggles to survive, many companies have a tendency to either try to save the project or quickly kill it. In both cases the focus on creating tools to the customer is quickly disappearing, and instead it is a struggle staying alive, or an attempt to delete projects and everything that goes with it. Google has a philosophy which revolves around how these kinds of projects often have obvious opportunities to do well in other project. It means that you pin out the best elements from failed project and fuse them with other projects.

5. Share as much information as possible

In a company with more than 25.000 employees it can be a struggle to know exactly what each employee is working on. Every week the employees write an email in bullet point form, which contains the projects they are working on. All of these emails are indexed, so if you want to find out if anyone is working on a project you came up with in the first place, you are able to figure it out. It reduces the amount of double work considerably and promotes a great deal of transparency within the company. At least for the employees.

6. Users, users, users

    Earlier on it was called “Users, not money”, but the philosophy is basically the same. Satisfy your users’ needs, and money will come to you. Either in consists of advertisement or in subscription payment services. The key element in both cases is creating a big enough collection of consumers to support the economy.

7. Data is apolitical

    There is no doubt that Google is a highly academic company. Therefore no haphazard decisions are made based on some designer’s or developer’s discretion. Consumer testing is always completed before anything hits the market. And itdoes matter whether the little button on the center of the screen is grey or blue.

8. Creativity loves boundaries

If you begin the process of creativity with fixed boundaries, the project participants are inflamed to break them. It is much easier to achieve success with fixed boundaries telling what is possible, than throwing in ideas all directions.

    9. You are skilled – we hire

    Even though no job ad is out, there is always a job for the right employee in the organization. Google is mainly on the look for entrepreneurial developers, who address the company with a good idea: an idea that will be ready to hit the market after a few months. All solely based on the size of the company, and its ability to constantly launch and support new projects.