Corporate Origins: Does The Most Valuable Innovation Still Happen Behind Closed Doors?

The Google Garage rented by Larry Page and Sergey BrinThis week’s episode of This American Life, “Origin Story,” reveals surprising tidbits about how various institutions began. It also profiles one of the original Mad Men, Julian Koenig, who came up with Volkswagen’s iconic ‘think small’ campaign. We’ve all heard of the famous Hewlett-Packard garage, but I didn’t realize that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin moved into a garage two years after they started what would become Google. Of course it’s now a corporate landmark and tourist attraction. Clearly, the garage is the sine qua non of any tech company (the image of two geeks tinkering in a dimly lit space is a million times more alluring than… two well connected guys hatching a business plan at cocktail party) but the show got me thinking: Is Twitter the new garage? The space where copywriters and techies test out ideas and prototypes. Or, does the most valuable innovation still happen behind a closed garage door?

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A Marshmallow (and a Book) Worth Waiting For

 Illustration from The New Yorker

Illustration from The New Yorker

This week’s New Yorker has a terrific article about delayed gratification. It tells the story of an experiment in which children were given a choice between having a single marshmallow right away or having two marshmallows if they can wait a bit. It turns out that the kids who were able to wait grew up to be people who have exhibited a greater level of self-control throughout their lives—lives that are often more successful as a result.

We’re already familiar with this experiment because it’s one of more than a hundred studies that form the basis of MINDS IN THE MAKING: THE SEVEN ESSENTIAL SKILLS EVERY CHILD MUST LEARN—THE BREAKTHROUGH RESEARCH EVERY PARENT SHOULD KNOW by Ellen Galinsky, founder and president of the Families and Work Institute. Ellen’s book is important because it not only makes this massive amount of research available to parents, it shows them how to put the research to work with their children.

The book will be published in April, 2010…so you’ll just have to wait for it…

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