John Herlihy, B&F 2008
“We celebrate failure. If you are not failing enough, then you are not taking enough risks…. So what we do here is fail and fail fast”.
Google: ‘What we do is fail - and fail fast' (Business & Finance; 20 November 2008) Google made €7.8bn profits last year - John Herlihy, head of its Irish operations, discusses innovation with Fearghal O'Connor
Walking into Google's high-spec Dublin offices is like delivering champagne to George Best's hotel room only to find Miss World and thousands of euro spread across the bed. "Where did it all go wrong Mr Best?" a waiter might ask.
Presumably highly intelligent young men and women of every conceivable nationality are to be found throughout the Google building playing foosball, lounging on massive cushions and sipping smoothies as huge moving images of the world's beauty spots are beamed on to the walls courtesy of Google Earth. That, at least, is the first impression and the average office slave can only salivate.
"Part of our culture is that we celebrate failure," says John Herlihy, who heads up Google's European operations centre in Barrow Street. "It's okay to fail here. If you are not failing enough, then you are not taking enough risks. When the Romans used to ransack Europe, they had this fantastic model where they would send scouts out in five different directions. The four that didn't come back, they knew not to go in that direction. So what we do here is fail and fail fast."
The challenge in life, says Herlihy, is the opportunity cost. If you can fail and know that you are doing something the wrong way in minutes, then you don't have to spend months thinking about whether it might be the right way. The Google model is about taking chances and failing because failing gets you to the right answer quicker. "I found that quite difficult when I walked in the door," he says. "I'm an accountant. I was schizophrenic for a while until I got used to it." But...
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