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  • Writer's pictureNick Lansley

A future TescoPlex? Headline thoughts from a visit to Microsoft and Google’s HQ campuses.

Forgive me; currently I’m suffering from brain-fade.

I’ve just completed an intensive week at the headquarters of Microsoft (Redmond, WA) and Google (Mountain View, CA) learning how they “do” innovation as well as meet with the right people who are helping us build and confirm (or divert!) our future strategies such as in ‘mobile’.

Learning how both companies set about creating and implementing new ideas was an exercise in imagination and impulse; not being afraid to fail, and giving individuals the autonomy – and accountability – for innovation.

Microsoft provided a mature, reflective view on innovation. Meeting with people such as Scott Guthrie (with whom I presented on stage at PDC 2008), and other leaders both at Microsoft and Google provide such insight into the need for – and thought processes behind – innovation.

One thing that completely struck me was the fact that both Redmond and Mountain View campuses felt like university. Lunchtime at Spitfire, a restaurant at the heart of the Redmond campus felt like an upmarket student eatery – and beyond the building the sound of a lunchtime band playing and beer being enjoyed evoked the recall of my days at the student’s union.

At the GooglePlex, as Google’s Mountain View HQ is known, an intense sense of energy was palpable and the ‘university’ campus was even more real with students… sorry I mean employees… accessing all kinds of social functions available whenever they needed it. The mindset of Google’s two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, is everywhere. For example, no desk is further than 100ft from a canteen or food/drink station. Food of the finest quality cooked by top chefs is available in the central canteen – and everything is free. An onsite gym and “endless” swimming pool are available (where you swim in a straight line but remain stationary to the pool edge as you control the speed of the water flow past you). You can get a haircut, a massage, and even counselling for every aspect of your life. Sit on a loo in the staff toilets and the seat is heated. As you sit, you can read door-mounted A4 sheets of paper on good testing practices (“Debugging Sucks; Testing Rocks!”). No toilet rolls but you press a button which controls a water- and air-directed cleansing process while you remain seated… now that was an experience!

From my observations, the psychology behind both Microsoft and Google campuses is that employees make it their home. Every need is taken care from breakfast to evening meal and entertainment – and everything is free. You just go home to sleep, and then you come back for breakfast.

Tesco at the Googleplex: (left to right) Laura Wade-Gery, CEO, & Tesco Direct; myself; Ian crook, Marketing Director,; Angela Maurer, Senior Marketing Manager,; JJ Van Oosten, CIO / Tesco Direct / Tesco Mobile; Julia Tishenko, Category Marketing Manager, Tesco Direct; Kendra Banks, Category Marketing Director,; Graham Harris, Category Director for Tesco Entertainment and Electricals (missing from the picture is Barney Burgess, COO of Grocery & Wine and Rob Salter, Category Director for Entertainment).

At reception is a screen showing the latest live Google search requests.

If last week wasn’t enough inspiration, this week I am at Microsoft’s Mix10 in Las Vegas and I’ve just seen a great keynote speech from Scott Guthrie on Silverlight 4 (write once, run on Windows, Mac, Windows 7 Mobile and more). Mix is for another blog entry later.

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