Two observations on the culture at Google

I recently joined Project Wing in the organization formerly known as Google[x], and over the past month, I’ve had a couple of a-ha moments where I truly got to see Google’s notorious(ly good) corporate culture. 

The first was a couple of weeks after starting, and I walking by the cafeteria about 30 minutes before lunch. I saw two of the cafe staff huddled around a table, and caught just enough words to understand what they were doing: critiquing the meal. Very directly: “the meat is a tad too salty,” “this presentation hides the main ingredient,” “the polenta came out really well.”

Google has such an open, self-improving performance culture that even the kitchen staff gives and receives criticism to make their product better. 

My second observation has to do with bureaucracy–or lack thereof.  Last Friday I noticed that our three big conference rooms’ signs were in a really inconvenient place, such that it’s a struggle to tell which room is which (I actually went to the wrong meeting last week and didn’t realize for 15 minutes). So, without asking for permission or having a meeting, I filed a work request through the Google system and asked for a common sense change–move the signs so they were visible in the hallway. Two work days later, I got an email that the signs had been changed. No red tape, no fanfare.

Google trusts its workforce to make common sense improvements like this–more than that, it relies on us to do so–and it does as much as possible to make those changes easy and quick as possible. 

No wonder we are Fortune 500’s best place to work. 

Taking on the Qalo Marriage Challenge

Late last year, my wife got me a Qalo wedding band so that I would have something to wear when my metal wedding band would be dangerous or at least uncomfortable to wear (for example, working with tools or working out.)  So far, I’ve loved it:

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I discovered in the package that they’ve issued what they call the Qalo Marriage Challenge–a set of tasks for husbands & wives to explore the outdoors together.  So, we’re taking it, and reporting progress here.   First bunch of challenges down!

  • Stargaze: We were fortunate enough to visit the Grand Canyon on our drive out to California last month.  We got to see the canyon at sunset, then drive back down to the freeway in the darkest dark we’ve ever been in as a family.  We couldn’t help stopping on the side of the road and appreciating the glory.  Ironically, the kids wanted to watch Star Wars when we got back to driving.
  • Visit a local state park: After we finally got to California, we took the first weekend to get out to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, where we got to hang out on the beach.
  • Go on a bike ride: The next day, we got to ride our bikes together on the Guadalupe River Trail.

The pictures below have just me & the kids because, well, someone had to take the picture!

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The challenges still to go:

  • Plant something
  • Hike a trail
  • Make a mud pie
  • Go on a picnic
  • Kiss underwater
  • Go rafting
  • Cook on a campfire
  • Watch the sun go down
  • Watch the sun come up
  • Light a fire without matches
  • Go on a nature walk at night
  • Cuddle by a campfire
  • Hunt for bugs
  • Go fishing
  • Fly a kite
  • Skip a stone
  • Camp out in the wild
  • Climb a tree
  • Canoe down a river