I recently downloaded the latest Steven Levy book, “In the Plex” which is pretty much a history of Google. It’s now on my nice friendly iPad where Kindle software delivers me a lot of interesting things.

I use Google products on a daily basis. Their search is generally reliable apart from a blip last year when it was useless for a while. With personalisation/instant search it seems to be improving again. I use gmail because – by and large – it works and now it’s accessible on all my devices with relatively little hassle. But I didn’t know too much about the company other than it was founded by a couple of kids some time ago. Those kids are around my age now which is a bit odd when you think of it.

Anyway, one of the things that struck me about Google is just how creative they are on certain fronts. They need to save money? They ask their staff for ideas on how to do it. I’ve worked in quite a few companies. I have to say that for the lossmaking ones, I don’t think they ever entertained the idea that asking their staff for advice on where to cut waste was a good idea. Many old school companies just go for the wages and staff every time.

The other thing which they do that I think is highly interesting is their 20% idea. If you’re not familiar with this (and if you don’t work in tech, you probably wouldn’t be), the general gist is that Google employees can turn 20% of their work time over to a personal project that interests them – a lot of google products grew out of this. I think 3M may have done something not too different from whence we got post-it notes.

One of the things which I have noticed that stifles innovation in a lot of companies – not internet search companies – is that ideas are often top down. Another thing is obviously when an idea comes from bottom up is that there is a cat fight over who gets credit for it. This isn’t really in the interest of the company when you think about it. If you brought about a situation whereby anyone who had an idea could fight for it and also be given appropriate credit for it, you might find a lot more interesting innovation coming from your staff. With it, that will bring a lot more employee involvement beyond merely the salary. Just the feeling of having made an unexpected difference.

Google hasn’t a massively hierarchical management structure for a company of its size which may make it easier to implement slightly left of centre ideas like this. But I don’t see any real reason why it couldn’t work in a hierarchically managed company either. A key component of why Google is where it is now is that it was a company that fostered ideas. A lot of mainstream companies – regardless of size – don’t do this any more. They are not looking at ideas really; they are looking at money and how to get it.

Yet every company everywhere started with an idea. I think ultimately that those ideas are currency, and because of the culture in many companies – where communication is very often a one way route – ideas get lost, or delayed.

It’s something to think about. I have another blog on this site which I use as an ideas whiteboard. There isn’t a whole lot there now but it’s a creative space where I think it would be useful to be able to look at things and reason out how they could work.

LinkedIn penetration – What’s it worth really?

Last week, ComScore issued a press release highlighting the penetration rates for Twitter and LinkedIn in a number of different companies. The Netherlands came out top. What was interesting – and hence rather more widely reported than you’d expect normally – was that Ireland came second in the table for LinkedIn. I was a little surprised. The press release is here. It concentrates mainly on the Netherlands use of social networking media but there is that table of penetration for LinkedIn and that’s what I want to talk about.

It caught my interest because at the same time, an online forum which I frequent was running a discussion on how to find jobs in IT in Ireland. Networking via LinkedIn featured as a key component of something people should be doing; and how they should manage their profile, for example. It interested me because it strikes me that LinkedIn is working more or less as a lot of people feel FaceBook should be – a connection building exercise. I’m not sure FaceBook really works that way.

Given that Ireland is behind a lot of other countries in terms of penetration of FaceBook and Twitter, I’m intrigued to know why we score highly on LinkedIn. It’s possible that this penetration is as a result of:

  • high number of IT professionals;
  • high number of professionals intermingling with the US market;
  • high levels of staff turnover in the IT sector.

LinkedIn is a little interesting on the financial front too as it is due to IPO sometime this year. The expected flotation figure is – comparatively speaking (according to Mashable by the way), not all that high. This is important because the figures being bandied about for FaceBook are rather stratospheric, despite a complete absence of useful financial information. LinkedIn’s IPO documentation offers a lot more clarity.

The recruitment process in Ireland has changed a lot over the last 10 years. I was direct-hired to my current company having done battle with the recruitment agencies which, from what I can see, are really not all that trusted. LinkedIn cites job vacancies as one of their main income streams and anecdotally, I know people who have been headhunted via LinkedIn. I wonder if a key contribution to LinkedIn’s position in Ireland relates to recruitment specifically and I’d be interested in finding a way of figuring it out.

LinkedIn is an interesting way of finding a job; however. If you have any colleagues (or direct line reporting) within your network, it may be difficult to hide the fact that you are interested in moving which may or may not be a good thing depending on a number of matters such as workplace atmosphere and hierarchy, remuneration issues and workplace culture.

One of the things that struck me most about LinkedIn at the time I registered by the way was how structured it was in terms of describing your background, experience. A key complaint I have about the online form application modusfindanewjobus is that it is can be very difficult to fit that around your actual life and experience. I particularly found this with an IBM form lately.

While that makes it easier for HR staff, it may not – and almost certainly isn’t – necessarily in the interest of either an employer or a potential candidate. For that reason – I think there will always be an interest in a well designed and informative CV. LinkedIn allow you to upload these which is helpful.

Declaration of interest – my linkedin profile is here.