All of the shuttered projects failed several of Googleâ€™s key tests for continued incubation: They were not especially popular with customers; they had difficulty attracting Google employees to develop them; they didnâ€™t solve a big enough problem; or they failed to achieve internal performance targets known as â€œobjectives and key results.â€
In real life this is how it happened.
So letâ€™s take a look at the thinking behind a couple of the projects that Google recently killed or revamped.
Lively, Googleâ€™s entry into three-dimensional virtual worlds, was publicly unveiled last July. Four months later, when the company decided to close it, only 10,000 people had logged into the service over the previous seven days. That was well below the targets set by Googleâ€™s quarterly project review process, and far behind Second Life from Linden Lab, which had about half a million users in a similar period.
â€œWe didnâ€™t see that passionate hockey-stick growth in the user base,â€ said Bradley Horowitz, Googleâ€™s vice president for product management. Management decided that the half-dozen people working on Lively could be more productive elsewhere.
Of course even failed ideas are productive
Googleâ€™s willingness to take risks offers a lesson to other companies about the nature of innovation, said Jeff Jarvis, director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York and author of the new book â€œWhat Would Google Do?â€
â€œPerfection closes off the process,â€ Mr. Jarvis said. â€œIt makes you deaf. Google purposefully puts out imperfect and unfinished products and says: â€˜Help us finish them. What do you think of them?â€™ â€
Mr. Horowitz says every failed idea contributes to future Google products. â€œThere are not a lot of platypuses, these oddities that went nowhere,â€ he said.
Itâ€™s an process that is needed in a lot of companies but also non-profits like churches who tend to let projects survive long after they have outlived their usefulness or have been abandoned by the masses.