How I Did It: Building Global Teams, Products, and Businesses at Google

With Bradley Horowitz of Google and Mary Grove of Google for Entrepreneurs

Google has become a model for building products that scale to billions, which provides an incredible benchmark for other companies to follow. While scaling a product to billions may not be a reality for every startup or company out there, the principles of product development defined and implemented by Bradley Horowitz and his team are ideal best practices that can work for any size or scope.

Approaching Product Development

During his discussion with Grove during the 2018 Startup Grind Global Conference, Horowitz shared some insights on how to approach product development in the best way. Those within product development are always looking at three factors to optimize for. These include time to market, the feature set, and quality.

What those in product development learn is that two often are picked at the loss of the other factor. For example, you are focused on time to market as a startup and getting the most features in there before it hits your audience. These are the two most important factors since you are limited with money to put into it and need to start making some revenue to keep going or get additional funding. Unfortunately, quality can be sacrificed in the process.

Make a High Quality Feature Set Possible

However, if you are like Google, time is not as much of a pressure, so this factor becomes the least important. Instead, the product development team focuses on the highest quality feature set possible. Yet, Horowitz notes that perspective on product development is not necessarily the only right way to successful product development. Instead, there is no one right answers. Instead, there are only tradeoffs.

Listen to Your Audience

Horowitz has noted that the best approach is to listen to the audience and particularly to that inner voice. That’s because that voice knows the truth. For example, it knows when a product is truly great or when corners have been cut. That’s when you know that product development must always be centered on delightful product quality. That excellence is everything to your customer and potential customer.

Google Photo

During the conversation, Horowitz used the example of Google Photos to illustrate his point about that inner voice and recognizing the value of quality features. Like what Gmail did for textual content, Google Photos is now doing for photos. In both cases, Google created products that understood what value the audience was seeking and how it could be something that could scale to help billions of people. There was a lot of listening to the audience as well as the team about how to make this product work.

However, Horowitz and Grove both note that not everything is about serving billions of people or your product doesn’t count this time. This knowledge and philosophy is why Google has created Area 120, its internal incubator. Here, those within Google can be more experimental and playful in what they are developing. There is more learning and freedom to really explore all three factors – time, feature sets, and quality – without the pressure of having to create something for the masses.

This internal incubator illustrates that successful product development can also be small and passionate just as much as it can be large and exciting. The point Horowitz emphasizes is that there needs to be listening, the wisdom to step up and follow that listening, and the team effort to address all those factors at once.