Yes & Yes, But: USA CTO & Google[x] VP on Innovation in the Age of Internet

​"Networks" have always been a source for earth-shattering change, says Megan Smith, now the CTO of the United States. But before started guiding America to Government 2.0, she spoke at the 2014 Startup Grind Global Conference as the Vice President of Google[x] - Google's radical "big bets" department, responsible for innovations like the Loon Balloon and Google Glass.

Think of the Erie Canal and the Silk Road: each a network, they brought enormous technological, economical, and social upheaval to the world hundreds of years ago.

Now think of the Internet: not a physical channel of the past, but a digital network able to connect all 7.3 billion people on this planet, and allow them to share knowledge in an unprecedented way. So what's next?

Watch the full talk by Megan Smith of Google[x] here, and catch our highlights below.

Innovating in the Age of The Internet

Well, first is connecting everyone: the cables, the electricity, and the infrastructure just aren't available to all, not to mention the barriers erected by political upheaval and conflict in many developing nations. But we need everyone, urges Megan. We need to bring the internet to the whole world, she urges, and to do that we need to "get moving and stop talking." 

But why? Why should we care? What's the benefit of bringing connectivity and collaboration to everyone? Smith briefly brings up Google[X]'s process - amused, she asks the audience to guess at how long the first Google Glass prototype took. 

"6 months?"

"2 years?"

"1 day?"

"3 weeks?"

Megan blows everyone out of the water with the real answer - 1.5 hours.

Google[X]'s focus is prototyping, trying out any new idea, no matter how crazy, failing fast, and "starting with the guts of what you're trying to do." She also emphasizes that those insane ideas can only come from a starting point as diverse and far-reaching as possible. By bringing innovative learning to millions of minds that didn't have it before, we can grow our both our collective knowledge and the potential power of the internet exponentially.

Yes, But...

So, once we have these multitudes connected, how do we utilize the possibilities of the internet to bring about a collaborative humanity?

"We like the saying "2/3 yes and, 1/3 yes, but..." at Google[X]" says Smith.

Yes, ideas need critiquing and massaging, so spend 1/3 of your time doing that; but spend 2/3, the majority of your time building, creating, driving, innovating, and making use of the incredible networked knowledge of billions of people, and together we will make moonshot ideas a reality.