We are used to asking Google for answers and Google maps for directions when we are lost. Google’s parent company Alphabet has a market cap of approximately $544 billion, making it one of the most precious companies in the world. Apple is ahead at $617 billion. Microsoft with a market capitalisation of $486 billion is in the third spot.
Alphabet's largest subsidiary is Google. But Alphabet is home to a dozen innovative companies. Look at the company that is simply called X, which runs “moonshot” projects. Google X chooses to focus on the future as it chooses what problems to solve. In keeping their innovation projects in-house, they use their massive cash reserves to focus on problems that would not get venture capital funds or those that have very long time horizons.
The X lab works very hard to turn these moonshots into commercially viable projects. In the recent times, they have graduated three projects from the lab to the real world. These projects are expected to generate revenue and in a reasonable time expect to be profitable. DeepMind, once a moonshot project about Artificial Intelligence, is now building industrial scale neural networks. The Life Sciences project is now a company called Verily. They are working on contact lenses that will allow people with diabetes to constantly check their glucose levels using a non-intrusive method.
The most recent graduate of the moonshot lab has been named Waymo. The company will work on self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are already visible in Austin, Phoenix, and Palo Alto in the US. China is building lanes for driverless cars. Uber is investing heavily in driverless cars in Seattle. GM and Ford are investing in self-driving cars. This technology is exploding and will disrupt our lives faster than we think.
All of us manage a portfolio of skills just the way a company like Alphabet manages its portfolio of companies. There are some valuable lessons to be learned here.
- Be the best at your core job: Google has made search a verb. While they were not the first search engine in the market, they have made themselves indispensable. Keep building deep skills in your core area of expertise. Can you do your core job better than anyone else in the company? In the world? Do you know absolutely everything there is to know about that subject? Are you seen as the most dependable go-to person for solving even the most wicked problems?
- Allocate 20 percent of your time to “moonshots”: Most people are already working long hours. When they are home they still need to respond to emails, get on to calls, and stay connected. Asking someone who is already rushed for time to spend time reading and taking classes to learn something new seems unreasonable. But that is what a moonshot is about. It is about allocating 20 percent of your time towards building the future.
- Build networks: Alphabet is collaborating with Novartis to build the contact lens that can monitor glucose levels. They are pooling their expertise with experts from other domains to create these innovations. Tap into your friends’ network and see if you can pool in your expertise to solve a problem that they are grappling with. Get to know people whose work area you know nothing about. That’s where you will be able to add the most value.
Being able to build deep expertise in your current job is a great way to secure your current assignment. The moonshot is about the future and they take time. With all the disruptions coming our way, several traditional jobs will be taken over by robots. After all, the elevators today no long need a lift operator. Automation has taken away that job.
The biggest lesson from Alphabet is that you can be the world’s best at your current job and still find time to carry on a dozen Moonshot projects.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)