I was recently asked by my boss to attend a free seminar being given at the Google Headquarters in NYC.  It was last minute and I didn’t exactly relish the need to stay in the city longer than necessary, but I had to take the opportunity.  Being a practitioner of Search Engine Optimization, I make my living dancing with Google and their algorithm, as I attempt to optimize sites for maximum exposure on the search engine.  Getting inside the “belly of the beast” was something I had to do, even if it was for a couple of hours.

The seminar itself was nonsense.  Microsoft and Google are starting to promote the concept of a “micro-moment” marketing strategy, you will likely hear that term in the coming years (I personally heard it about 500 times in the first 10 minutes of the seminar, enough to make my eyes glaze over), but in terms of valuable information or insight, the seminar contained none.  Nonetheless, the little time I spent in the building gave me some insight into the mind of the Google engineers and the culture of how they operate.

Getting up to excuse myself from the doldrums of the marketing speeches, I went to the nearby bathroom.  As I stared at the wall I found myself reading a sheet of paper that, well, was a bit technical, see for yourself:

Google Headquarters

I don’t know if you could make sense of it on the first read, but I sure couldn’t.  It took me about 3 times reading it through to start to understand what the heck this sign in the men’s room was trying to say.

Essentially (I believe) it is a service that helps the Googlers keep track of the performance of their systems, and if it drops below a certain level, they are alerted.  Seems like a strange thing to put in a bathroom, no?  I think it speaks to a culture of creativity and innovation.  Let me explain a bit…

In order to truly stay competitive in any business landscape, and remain a market leader, innovation is the key.  If you follow textbook examples and protocols, you will only rise to the level of the status quo (if you are lucky).  Breaking the mold and attempting new ideas and methods that have never been documented before allows a company (and an individual) to potentially break through the status quo and rise to the level of a true market leader and innovator.

How does posting a technical document in the Men’s Room help with this?  Well, it may or may not help with anything, but the key point is that they are trying something new.  It may fail, it may succeed, but that is somewhat irrelevant.  They tried something innovative and saw if it worked or not.  In this case, it was classic marketing:

  • High traffic area/targeted audience – All the men on this floor will see this “ad” at some point during the day.
  • Making use of “downtime” – “Productivity on the potty,” they are able to squeeze a few more seconds of brain power and thinking out of their employees, turning a previously passive activity into an opportunity to think about a given problem.
  • Call to Action and Feedback/Sentiment Analysis – They have links at the bottom of the document to either provide positive or negative feedback.

Google is no stranger to creativity, “Google Labs,” now defunct, was a project devoted entirely to innovations and new products.  Most of them failed, but again, that’s not the point.  The point is they tried something new.  This thinking-outside-the-box concept is something that I’m sure is ingrained into the culture of Google, and this was apparent within 15 minutes of being at their workplace here in NYC.

I left the building, unimpressed by the actual seminar I attended, but thinking deeply about the concepts of creativity and excellence.  Google holds a firm grip on the modern economy, and they achieved this through academic and technical innovation, the sort that they try to reinforce by the atmosphere and culture of their offices.  Their headquarters hold a sort of rarefied air, for me, anyway, and it left my excited to continue my education and growth as a student of data science, and antsy to pursue my Master’s in Data Analytics here at SPS.

Michael is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and plans on pursuing a Master Degree in Data Analytics from CUNY SPS after graduation this spring. He’s worked in the Internet Marketing sector for nearly 7 years and specialize in Search Engine Optimization.