Promoting Collaboration: 4 Lessons from Google

Google Collaboration at Its Best

Founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google is famous for its collaborative efforts, and is continually recognized for its innovative corporate culture and work environment.

With over 30,000 employees (known as Googlers), the company recently took the top spot on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. (By the way, this is Google’s fifth time to be voted #1 by Fortune for this award.)

Google also recently received an Employees’ Choice Award on best places to work from an online career community called Glassdoor, which only relies on the input of employees anonymously. Google has made this list every year since the award’s inception in 2009.


So how does Google manage to promote collaboration so well? How do they manage to get the best ideas out of Googlers, and what lessons can we learn? Let’s take a look.

Google Collaboration Lesson #1: Embrace differences.

Diversity is what it’s all about when it comes to collaboration. Googlers work toward the same goals but from very different perspectives, thanks to a staff that represents just about every culture, background and geographical location you can think of. Collectively, they speak dozens of different languages, and are encouraged to pursue personal goals and explore outside interests, all of which results in a more well-rounded, and unique employee perspective.

Google Collaboration Lesson #2: Encourage “casual collisions.”

Google understands the importance of bringing minds together in unexpected ways. In fact, its new campus in Mountain View, Calif., which is scheduled for completion in 2015, is specifically designed to maximize “casual collisions of the work force.” Vanity Fair published a story about the new building, and referred to a conversation with David Radcliffe, a civil engineer who oversees the company’s real estate. Here is an excerpt:

“The layout of bent rectangles, then, emerged out of the company’s insistence on a floor plan that would maximize what Radcliffe called “casual collisions of the work force.” No employee in the 1.1-million-square-foot complex will be more than a two-and-a-half-minute walk from any other, according to Radcliffe. “You can’t schedule innovation,” he said. “We want to create opportunities for people to have ideas and be able to turn to others right there and say, ‘What do you think of this?’”


Google Collaboration Lesson #3: Promote employee engagement.

In The Internship, actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play the roles of two down-and-out salesmen who land an internship at Google. When the two actors visited the Googleplex in preparation for their roles, they were impressed by the perks, like free food and sleep pods, both of which were featured in the movie.

While the perks are great for employee morale, they also serve a purpose: to provide ripe opportunities for engagement, thereby stimulating conversations and providing moments of inspiration. Collaborations and great ideas don’t just happen around a desk – they can take place at the most unexpected times, while involved in seemingly unrelated activities.

Google Collaboration Lesson #4: Keep the door open.

When leaders of any organization are not only accessible, but are actually approachable, it creates an atmosphere that says, “We want to hear what you have to say because you’re important.” And this is crucial to any successful collaboration.

Part of the culture at Google is to maintain regular interaction between all levels of management. Its philosophy is explained on the corporate website this way:

“We strive to maintain the open culture often associated with startups, in which everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. In our weekly all-hands (“TGIF”) meetings—not to mention over email or in the cafe—Googlers ask questions directly to Larry, Sergey and other execs about any number of company issues. Our offices and cafes are designed to encourage interactions between Googlers within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play.”

What Are You Doing to Promote Collaboration in YOUR Organization?

Have you landed on an innovative way to create a culture of collaboration in your company? Share how your company is promoting collaboration in new and innovative ways in the comments.