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StratChat Replay: Innovation Readiness Assessment with Tendayi Viki & Alexander Osterwalder

Visual live-drawn by  Holger Niels Pohl

Visual live-drawn by Holger Niels Pohl

As the pace of change in our world has increased, competitive advantages have become temporary. Companies now need to be able to support and nurture innovation – not as one-off projects, but as a repeatable process. Innovation proficiency is no longer optional.

The questions for leaders and intrapreneurs are:

  • How ready is your company to nurture and support innovation?

  • Do you have the right leadership support, organizational design and innovation practice?

In this session, Tendayi Viki, Associate Partner at Strategyzer, Thinkers50 2018 Radar Thinker and the author of The Corporate Startup, joins Alexander Osterwalder in an insightful discussion around how companies can assess their levels of innovation readiness using some of our latest insights from the field.

Enjoy the replay!

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The Secret History of the Google Logo

Roughly 3.5 million Google searches happen each day. With stats like this, it’s not unlikely that the average person might see the Google logo anywhere from one to 30 times per day.

Throughout the past two decades, the Google logo has been iconic and easy to recognize. And across all of its evolutions, it has stayed misleadingly simple. 

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What many don’t know is that there’s a fascinating backstory to the most well-known design on the internet. It all started in 1996.

Below is a full timeline of Google logos over the years.

Google Logo History

1996: The First Google Logo

The search engine’s very first logo actually predates the name “Google.” Larry Page and Sergey Brin originally called their web crawler “BackRub.” Brin and Page chose this name because the engine’s main function was to search through the internet’s back links.

Google's first logo with its old name, BackRub, and a hand in the background

Luckily, by 1997 they’d changed the company’s name to the much less creepy “Google” — a misspelling of “googol” — a Latin term that literally means 10 to the 100th power (written out, that’s one followed by 100 zeros). The idea behind the name was that Google’s search engine could quickly provide users with large quantities, or googols, of results.

1998: First (real) Google logo

Some sources credit Page with the creation of the first Google logo, while others say Brin designed it with a free image editor called GIMP. Whomever it was, their design wasn’t exactly the most polished. 

Earliest Google Logo from 1998 with colored letters and exclamation point
Want another little fun fact? An exclamation point was supposedly included in Google’s rebranded design because Yahoo!’s logo also had this punctuation. All tech companies followed each other’s leads back then, it would seem.

1999-2010: Ruth Kedar’s logo designs

A mutual friend introduced Brin and Page to Stanford assistant professor Ruth Kedar. Because they weren’t in love with their logo, they asked Kedar if she’d design a few prototypes.

She started with a mostly black logo using the Adobe Garamond typeface. She also removed the exclamation point that was in the original logo.

Page and Brin like this logo because the mark in the middle looked like a Chinese finger trap, Kedar says.

Early black serif font Google logo prototype where Os are connected by a colored square pattern

The graphic designer’s next attempt used the Catull typeface (which should look familiar). The logo was meant to evoke accuracy, like a target.

Black font Google logo where O is a compass and bullseye

Then Kedar got a bit more playful, experimenting with color and interlocking Os. Those Os ended up becoming the basis for the Os at the bottom of every search engine results page.

Early Google logo where letters are black except for Os which are designed to look like a compass

Between the crosshairs and the magnifying glass, Brin and Page thought this design was a little visually overwhelming.

Early capitalized Google logo iteration with solid colors where the first O is a compass and the second O is a magnifying glass.

The next few iterations appear more like the Google logo we know and love today. These designs feel younger and less serious than their precedents.

Early iteration of Google logo where the O is a magnifying glass with a smiley face

Kedar makes the letters pop off the page with shadowing and thicker lines.

Google logo iteration from Ruth Kedar using more intense coloring and thicker lines

The eighth design was the simplest yet. Ultimately, Kedar wanted to show Google’s potential to become more than just a search engine (hence the removal of the magnifying glass). She also changed the traditional order of the primary colors to reemphasize how untraditional Google was.

Early iteration of Google logo by Ruth Kedar which includes a risen O

This version’s colors and the slanted angling make it feel youthful and energetic.

2010 Google logo iteration by Ruth Kedar

The final design is one of the most minimal. It was Google’s official logo from 1999 to 2010.

On May 6, 2010, Google updated its logo, changing the “o” from yellow to orange and removing the drop shadowing.

Original 1998 Google logo compared to iterations from Ruth Kedar launched in 1999 through 2010

2015: A new logo for Google

In 2015, designers from across Google met in New York City for a week-long design sprint aimed at producing a new logo and branding.

Following the sprint, Google’s logo changed dramatically. The company preserved its distinctive blue-red-orange-blue-green-red pattern, but changed the typeface from Catull to the custom schoolbook-inspired Product Sans.

At the same time, Google also rolled out several variations on its logo, including the rainbow “G” that represents the smartphone app and the favicon for Google websites, and a microphone for voice search.

Google mobile app logo launched in 2015

The new logo might look simple, but the transformation was significant. Catull — the former typeface — has serifs, the small lines that embellish the main vertical and horizontal strokes of some letters. Serif typefaces are less versatile than their sans-serif typefaces, since letters vary in weight.

Google's full name desktop version of logo Product Sans is a sans-serif typeface. That means it’s easy for Google’s designers to manipulate and adapt the logo for different sizes — say, the face of an Android watch or the screen of your desktop computer. As Google’s product line becomes more and more diverse, an adaptable design becomes essential.

The logo is also meant to look young, fun, and unthreatening (read: “I’m not like other massive tech corporations, I’m a cool massive tech corporation.”) This was a prescient move — since Google unveiled this design in 2015, concerns about data privacy have reached a fever pitch.

A Dynamic Logo

Google’s logo is also now dynamic. When you begin a voice search on your phone or tablet, you’ll see the Google dots bouncing in anticipation of your query.

As you speak, those dots transform into an equalizer that responds to your voice. And once you’ve finished talking, the equalizer morphs back into dots that ripple as Google finds your results.

“A full range of expressions were developed including listening, thinking, replying, incomprehension, and confirmation,” explained a Google design team blog post. While their movements might seem spontaneous, their motion is rooted in consistent paths and timing, with the dots moving along geometric arcs and following a standard set of snappy easing curves.

Implementation and Growth of the Google Doodle

In 1998, Google started playing with the Google Doodle — a temporary modification of the traditional Google logo.

The first Google Doodle originated in 1998 — before the company was technically even a company. Page and Sergey were attending the Burning Man festival. As a kind of “out of office” message, they put a stick figure drawing behind the logo’s second O.

Image result for google doodles burning man

As the years progressed, so did the detail of the featured doodles.

In 2000, Brin and Sergey asked then-intern Dennis Hwang to come up with a doodle for Bastille Day. Users loved it so much that they appointed Dennis “chief doodler.”

Today, doodles are often used to commemorate holidays, special occasions, and birthdays of scientists, thinkers, artists, and other important people.

The first Doodles tended to mark well-known holidays, like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Indian Holi (in India). But as time has gone on, they’ve become more and more global and creative. For example, on September 1, 2017, this Doodle celebrated the first day of school (or mourned it, depending on who you ask.)

To decide which events, figures, or topics get doodles, a team gets together periodically to brainstorm. Doodle ideas can also come from Google users. After an idea or doodle pitch gets the green light, the actual doodles are designed by illustrators and engineers.

Google reported in 2015 that they’d launched more than 2,000 doodles for various homepages around the world. While Google hasn’t shared more recent stats on its doodles, PRI noted that they’d climbed over 4,000 by 2016.

Google has continued to embrace doodles with a verified Twitter account devoted to updating its audience about newly-published doodles. The account has over 127,000 followers.

Google also invites people to submit ideas for doodles at

There’s more than meets the eye to Google’s logo. As people and technology evolve, the design has too. At the rate things are changing, we’ll probably see a new version in a few years.

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Testing New Business Ideas: Learnings From Owlet [Part 2]

In our first post on key learnings from Owlet we saw how the first few weeks of their entrepreneurial journey illustrate two critical principles:

i) Trusting the testing process, not your initial vision
ii) Testing desirability first

Let’s come back to Owlet to see how they exemplify three more of our convictions when it comes to de-risking new business ideas.

  1. Evidence trumps opinion

Co-founder Kurt Workman explaining how pricing opinions coming from customer surveys proved very unreliable and how A/B pricing tests provided more solid evidence.

Co-founder Kurt Workman explaining how pricing opinions coming from customer surveys proved very unreliable and how A/B pricing tests provided more solid evidence.

Almost every innovation team we work with starts testing with customer interviews. While customer interviews are great for discovery, they are tricky for hypothesis-based testing. For a team with limited interviewing experience it is easy to go off track by mistaking opinions for facts.

Our constant coaching challenge in these situations is to push teams to go beyond interviews and select several experiments with a call-to-action that will give the teams solid evidence on which to base their action.

“Be careful, what people say and what people do are two different things” we tell our teams, “don’t only do customer interviews”. They nod politely but it is hard to swallow, and they don’t really believe our advice to mistrust the data coming from customer interviews… until we show them how Owlet tested the pricing of their product.

When asked for their opinion, people told the Owlet team they would expect to pay $92 for their product and would never spend more than $214.

But in later pricing A/B tests, isn’t it interesting that the optimal price to maximise conversion proved to be $299, much higher than any price the Owlet team had heard in customer surveys?

Their pricing tests demonstrate that “what people say and what people do are two different things”, and even shows us that it sometimes plays to our advantage.

2. You don’t need more time and money to test your business idea

Co-founder Kurt Workman summarising the time and money they spent to de-risk their business idea.

Co-founder Kurt Workman summarising the time and money they spent to de-risk their business idea.

After just 24 weeks and having spent $1150, the OWLET team had de-risked 2 business models enough for further investment. When I hear a team complain that they don’t have enough time or money for testing, I don’t argue but I invite them to watch the Owlet video again. I remind them that if a random team of students with no money can de-risk their business idea in 24 weeks as a class project, then there should be no reason why a team of professionals with access to so much more corporate resources couldn’t do it.

3. Tell your story with the Business Model Canvas

Co-founder Jake Colvin using the business model canvas with images and color coding to share complex learnings in a simple way. Here the learning is that your user is not your customer.

Co-founder Jake Colvin using the business model canvas with images and color coding to share complex learnings in a simple way. Here the learning is that your user is not your customer.

If you watch the video, notice how easy it is to follow the story. The Owlet team uses the business model canvas to tell of how they de-risked the most critical hypotheses of their business idea and it just flows, even when they are sharing complex learnings.

Most teams we work with have the default temptation to build a fancy PowerPoint deck to impress their jury but we insist that evidence, not a fancy PowerPoint, is what matters most, and that the Business Model Canvas is the obvious tool to tell their story and showcase this evidence. If they need any convincing, we show them a typical “cognitive murder” pitch next to the Owlet video and they can decide for themselves which one they would invest in.

In my work with innovation teams, I also use Owlet to benchmark their progress midway through an innovation sprint. Funny enough, I have not yet met a team able to make more progress in those first few weeks than Owlet. When I meet a team that can progress as fast as Owlet, I will have no other choice than to enroll them in the next International Business Model competition.

On a final note, let’s acknowledge that it takes time to build and scale a business as the Owlet story between 2013 and today shows. And that’s the last learning from this case I wanted to share.

The first few weeks are important, but there are many more weeks afterwards that are equally important in the long journey from idea to business. I wish you all the best in the next phases of your entrepreneurial journey.

If you want to go further on our thinking on testing, join the prototype of our new testing course, and if you want to go through the same process with your team please check out our Spark and Innovation Sprint offering.

* All images taken from the 2013 International Business Model Competition Owlet YouTube video

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How to plog your way to a spot in the NYC marathon

Here’s one way to earn one of those coveted bibs for the NYC Marathon.

If you have ever dreamed of racing through the streets of New York City as part of the TCS New York City Marathon, and you’re eager to get your hands on one of those in-demand numbers to pin to your chest and prove that you’re not just a jogger but a marathoner, grab some gloves and a garbage bag.

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This elegant glass is just for drinking Japan’s unofficial national beverage

It makes consuming Calpis, the yogurt-y Coca-Cola alternative, downright elegant.

To people in the U.S., the prospect of a milky Coca-Cola may sound odd. But since 1919, Calpis–a sweet and acidic fermented yogurt drink–has been a mainstay in Japan. Bottled as a concentrate, it took off in prewar Japan, as it required no refrigeration to stay fresh and it was fortified with calcium.

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