I think they’d benefit from a quick look back at a failed innovation Google quietly DNRed. It offers a sobering reality check for anyone who believes that great people, great skills, great wealth, a great brand, and a great opportunity invariably lead to great innovation, They dont. Not even for Google. Theres a valuable lesson here.
Google Health should have become yet another of the super search engine’s high-impact, paradigm-busting successes. All the essential ingredients were there. A huge global market consistent with Google’s espoused mission to ‘organize the world’s information.’ An increasingly info-centric industry rife with inefficiencies achingly ripe for transformation. The chance to bring algorithmic ingenuity, superior scalability, and simpler user interfaces to individuals and institutions overburdened with complication. No dominant incumbents but intense interest from serious rivals such as Microsoft to spur competitive creativity. A controversial and humongous health care reform initiative in America to promote top-of-mind awareness and concern. Literally hundreds of billions of dollars of opportunity.
“A true Web 2.0 application is one that gets better the more people use it,” noted internet infopreneur and publisher Tim O’Reilly, whose team coined the phrase ‘Web 2.0’ over five years ago. “Google gets smarter every time someone makes a link on the web. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a search. It gets smarter every time someone clicks on an ad. And it immediately acts on that information to improve the experience for everyone else. It’s for this reason I argue that the real heart of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence.”
Contrast that with the ongoing success of Google Maps and Gmail. For an even more compelling case, look at how Android — formally launched after Google Health — and its Open Handset Alliance evolved. Android was a true Web 2.0 innovation platform in every way Health was not; Android enabled a true Web 2.0 innovation ecosystem in every way Health did not. Android was predicated on empowering Web 2.0 user experiences in almost every way Health did not. Indeed, where were the Aetnas, Kaiser Permanentes, and British National Health Services in adding ongoing value to the Google Health experience?
Web 2.0 innovation isn’t just about who uses the application, it’s about who is trying to make it better. Because Android truly embraced and embedded the Web 2.0 ethos, Google was able to do for handset manufacturers what it proved unable to do for health care companies. Google Health never became an innovation ecosystem where users, usage and partnerships combined to continuously create new value. It didn’t have the Web 2.0 heart for it.
But the very reasons for Health’s failure help explain why Google+ deserves all the attention it’s been getting. Social media platforms like Facebook can’t succeed unless they, too, honor the commandment to creatively harness collective intelligence. Google’s renewed efforts to compete with Facebook force it to revisit its most fundamental Web 2.0 innovation sensibilities. Google’s future health depends on learning the right lessons from Google Health.
Crowd Sourcing, building community and leverage on the collective intelligence is the new innovation ecosystem.