Genius, Google, and Problem Solving

Solve Any Problem with the Right Environment

This post is part of a self-improvement, entrepreneur, success series. Creativity, sensitivity, drive, inspiration, motivation and problem solving skills are critical to success.

I’m not saying this is the gospel, just a post on focusing in tightly on the essential things that lead to success.  I hope it’ll inspire you to delve into this topic of how imagination is used in the work environment, and on using imagination intelligently to solve business problems.

I talk about individual creativity and about the ideal work environment to bring that out.

People mistakenly believe they have to be a genius to solve problems and be really successful. The truth is you just need access to the solution. The solution is a perspective. And if that’s all it is, why do so few people get the right perspective or attitude to solve a problem? I’ll get to that.

If you can get access to that spot to see the solution, voila, problem solved. So what do you need to get that perspective or place so you can find the solution?

You need:

1.  breadth of imagination,
2. mobility,
3. ability to focus

That’s left brain and right brain working cooperatively. Left and right are almost opposites, but when they work together, they’re extremely powerful.

Those three faculties let you solve problems dynamically.  Yes, some people do have brilliant minds, but if you could what they see, you’d be brilliant too. If they can’t see the solution, they take a different look at the problem. Their expertise is actually a flexible mind that lets them go wherever they need to be. Mobile minds thrive in a mobile environment where workers are accessible to each other and more accidental contact can take place.

Like Jack Sparrow says, your attitude is everything. If you’re stuck with a limited perspective or environment, you’re going to have a bad attitude — guaranteed.

What We Can Learn from Google

I’m talking about Google in this post as a practical example of how opening up your physical space and your relationship to others can help solve business or personal issues.  It’s the mobility that results in creative connections between people. And I’m talking about collaboration via email or social media or whatever. Google for instance, believes that workers get more done through informal contact in the workplace. And when people share, the business wins.


Don’t give or don’t share? No desire to receive? You lose. Those who don’t collaborate refuse the multiplier effect and therefore are a problem for the business. Collaboration is where business solutions happen because many minds are better than just one.

Once you see what Google’s all about, you’ll appreciate what worker mobility, imagination, space, collaboration, and freedom are all about. And why they’re so important to business and an innovative company.

If you’re an entrepreneur who must create and market your product/service, you may want to study up on how Google approaches innovation, workplace design, and marketing. You could apply it to your personal life as well. The Google model is powerful, maybe too powerful because they’re on the verge of becoming Orwell’s Big Brother.

Of course, even Google can make a bad hire:


Two salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital age find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment. See the trailer.

Reimagining a Problem

Just for a moment, view a problem as a physical object. Let’s say you put the problem on a table in the middle of the room.  What’s the first thing you do? Stare at it and think harder.

Then when that doesn’t work, you begin to walk around the table seeing the problem from different perspectives. You might go up close then move way back. Zooming in, zooming out. You could gather impressions from every  perspective and then even ask questions.


Once you’ve gotten enough views and information, you begin thinking or processing all of your thoughts, and the solution begins to become apparent.  Think of the room as your imagination. You needed the space around the table (your imagination) and the freedom to move around it.

Your brain can solve anything if you have freedom and mobility. I’m not sure if that’s all that helpful to you right now, but if you start writing down all the elements of your problem you’ll see how imagination helps. In fact, when you ask your friend for their opinion, you’re just getting another perspective.

When Will Industrial Era Values Fade Away?

But in real world of course, you may not get such 360 degree perspectives. Either you’re not allowed to get the perspective or info you need, or you’re inhibited and won’t let yourself see the solution. You begin to grow frustrated by the context. How can you solve the problem if you’re outside looking in? That’s when you have to get really smart and creative.

Solutions require mobility, to get where you need to be. This is why people higher up in organizations such as a business owner can solve problems easily. They have full 360 degree access to collect information, authority to move resources, leverage their employee’s capabilities, and time to think about the solution. They have freedom. Freedom and solutions are connected. I’ll mention Google next, because they understand the relationship and apply it to their all their business activities.

To create a great search engine, augmented reality goggles, or a car that drives itself anywhere, the imagination needs complete free reign.

Workers also need full access. Traditional, industrial age businesses don’t often allow that though. Our industrial era values live on in workplace design, behavioural expectations, and even in business language.

The more freedom you have, the greater your depth and breadth of access, the more successful you can be at solving personal or business tasks. Google was built with that in mind. And what could be better for problem solving than a search engine?  Google wants to go way beyond that to assist you with everything in your life.

Here’s an excerpt from Businessweek:

CW: Left-brain companies typically have two types of process. They do very intensive individual work, which is highly focused and needs to have external environmental intrusions removed and for Google, that was particularly important. These individuals needed a quiet environment because most of their work is writing code for many hours a day. They also have to collaborate, as they work in teams and share information in meetings with other team members. So there are two completely separate structural aspects to the Google workplace: sharing and individual process.

An advertising agency is much more right-brain. There’s a very high degree of collaboration, shooting the shit, where they are basically feeling out in all directions for ideas. Their work relies on ideas ? the more original, the more they survive in the marketplace. They can work in a much higher acoustic environment. They need a certain level of disruption in the workplace.

CB: Because of the different tasks?

CW: Part of a disruptive work environment is this shifting of setting. Anyone who stays in one place for too long is understimulated, in that particular type of right-brain enterprise. In an advertising agency, high mobility and interaction are regarded as incredibly important. Probably more creative output happens through informal accidental meetings and moving around offices than in structured, scheduled meetings.

Google: Empowering Employees with Freedom

8 years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the head office of Google in Mountainview, California. I was really excited.  I had heard about Google’s liberal, flexible work environment for years. Any worker is thrilled to think about working in that environment. It’s even better now. Google understands Kaizen and is dedicated to innovation.

googleplexThe main campus is huge and roomy. There’s something about all that space and roominess that frees the imagination.  It gives you a great feeling. Google gives their workers all sorts of benefits such as free food, in-house gym and masseurs. Myself and my client got the tour including the play areas with Foosball tables and the infamous weight-gaining cafeteria.  What an amazing place to work in (and eat).

googlecafeteriaThe Adwords manager gave me all sorts of Google merchandise. My nephews and niece were thrilled by the imaginative stuff such as drinking mugs that glowed, and rubber balls that lit up from the energy of bouncing, and my niece was the envy of her friends wearing her girl’s Google t-shirt.

And I was an SEO — Google’s mortal enemy. And my client was building his business on keyword arbitrage, another thing Google disapproved of because someone was making money off of them (Google thinks that’s being evil).  We were two bad boys right in the heart of enemy territory. Of course, some people believe Google is the bad boy now (Google! stop being evil and let us see the keywords).

Since then, Google has banned keyword arbitrage and all but gotten rid of search engine optimization strategists. They’re not the same company now, but they’re hell bent on growth. No status quo for the Google boys and I doubt they count their $billions. They love succeeding and growing in the big playground they created for themselves.


Optimism and Spirit Expand the Mind

Google achieved its envied status because of the optimism and spirit of their owners Sergei Brin and Larry Page. They wanted to send that spirit and freedom to produce down throughout the organization. Looks like it worked.

googlecubicleThey knew the workplace was very influential in creativity and productivity. They tried to make their  employee’s cubicle world as comfortable as possible. Google was built for growth right from the start. They got rid of physical, mental and emotional barriers to productivity – knowing that workers will solve and create anything their environment will allow them too.

They may not even use the archaic, industrial-era word “work.”  Do you have a more positive word to replace “work”?  Let me know.

Well, you’ve heard me ramble on, so here’s your reward, a grand tour of the Googleplex in Mountainview, California.











Sidewalk cafes in downtown Mountain View, not far from the Googleplex. Yes, every city has their cafes but it just seems different here. Maybe it’s just the California thing.

Now, tell me honestly, is this a place you would look forward to living and working in?  Do you think your work as a programmer, web designer, lawyer, teacher, entrepreneur, or receptionist would improve? Or is freedom too frightening?