After visiting Google and Ernst & Young, I think that innovation in business is more clearly defined in my mind than ever before. As with this entire trip, applying abstract concepts to tangible things has really helped me gain a better understanding of those concepts.
Google is innovative, and so is Ernst & Young. In the case of Google, innovation is easy to see even to someone who has never been in the company’s building. Google constantly has a new idea, a new initiative, a new project; there has not been a time in my life where Google was not developing new technology at a rapid pace. With that being said, seeing Google’s Pittsburgh office gave me an even greater respect for how innovative the company truly is. Everything about Google screams, “we do things differently.” In fairness, they are not as different as they would like the public to believe; nevertheless, their treatment of employees, command structure, and overall business model are not the norm.
Ernst & Young on the other hand is innovative but in more subtle ways, which is largely a product of the type of business they do. Their innovation comes largely from improving methodology for financial analysis, and we only know that they innovate in this way because they told our tour group that they did. Their company structure is relatively standard, though they did emphasize that they try to make every employee feel valued. In other words, Google’s innovation is more all-encompassing than E&Y’s, which is fine; Ernst & Young is still an extremely successful company, perhaps more successful on the whole than Google, though that comparison is virtually impossible to quantify.
What have I taken from all of this? Firstly, innovation is necessary in business regardless of the product at hand. The old adage does not hold true here; if it ain’t broke, make it better anyways. Stagnation is code for failure in complex environments where new competitors and products can arise at any moment. Secondly, innovation can definitely go too far. For instance, if Ernst & Young innovated their business structure by acting in as loose of a manner as Google, I am highly skeptical that they would continue to be successful; there is merit to consistency. Taking both of these two things into consideration, I have come away with this: innovation is even trickier to get right than it is necessary for success.