One of the most interesting talks from last week at the Transit of Venus forum was by Craig Nevill-Manning, the Engineering Director of Google, and, by the way, a graduate of The University of Waikato. He let us in to the ironic secret of Google’s success: Google promotes face-to-face meetings. While its products help us to do things in front of our own computer screens or smart phones while stuck in our own offices or cubicles or cars, and to avoid having to interact with humans, Google does not condone the practice from its own employees. Oh, the irony!

Instead, new projects are started through face-to-face meetings, even if this means taking a team of people and flying them to the other side of the world to talk to another group of people. Google have found that personal interaction helps immensely and it’s cost-effective.

Craig suggested that it was in the interests of everyone, not just university academics (and believe me  ever-tightening budgets mean this is difficult even for them)  to have sabbaticals. Go and spend six months, or a year, in another country, working with people there, he says. It will give you an appreciation of the ways other people work and what is important to them. That in turn will make it more likely that you’ll come up with some really useful innovation in whatever field you work in. New Zealand is an inward looking country (coming from overseas I can attest to that) – we need to change this.

Of course, finding the money for time overseas is difficult. Having just spent two weeks in Sydney, I can attest to how it causes one’s bank account to hemorrhage (with the sticking-plaster of funding provided by one’s employer rather inadequate for stopping the flow).  But from a work and personal development point of view, it is worth it.

You can listen to Craig’s talk here (and access all the Transit of Venus Forum’s sessions via YouTube.)  He’s the second speaker you’ll get on the hour-and-a-half recording.


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