When you say, "spring break," most college students probably think martinis and tiny weeny bikinis, but my spring break was nothing like that. I had the great fortune of spending a day at Google in Mountain View, CA as a University Innovation Fellow (UIF). My break included spending time with some of the brightest and driven individuals in the country. There, we had a fantastic, inspiring and enlightening time led by University Innovation staff and fellows, in partnership with Google employees. There were so many great ideas presented and I wish I could share them all, but here are six things that applied directly to my experience as a college student.
1. Think, Act, Do Intentionally
Walking into Google, I had no idea what to expect, except for that I'd be blown away. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. At Google, we were asked to step outside of our comfort zones and do a variety of tasks that required us to work with people that many of us had never met before. We were asked to brainstorm great, and sometimes life-changing, ideas in just a matter of minutes. We did not have time to do things without purpose. As a result, anything we thought or did needed to be intentional. In terms of life, think about things you do regularly and question them. Ask yourself do these things matter and/or what purpose do they serve?
2. "Yes, and" Not "Yes, but"
Another thing I found is that Google is very much focused on offering solutions, not just criticism. We were challenged to try the same experiment one of two ways. The first was to shoot down the ideas of the idea generator with reasons why something wouldn't work. This was the “yes, but” mindset. The second was the “yes, and” mindset, which encouraged us to cooperate and build ideas up as opposed to tearing them down. This mindset encouraged us to say things like, “we can do this AND make it better by….” The practical take away in this is that it's harder to build something up than tear it down, but only one of these ways leaves anyone truly satisfied.
3. Follow Your Curiosity
Google has done something not many large companies have. They have mastered the start-up culture. To me, the start-up culture is one that encourages employees to take risks and be innovative, not just for profit, but for survival. Innovation is so intertwined with the culture at Google that it was practically oozing off of the sticky notes on the whiteboard tables. The key I found in this tip is that it's ok to be curious. Without curiosity, there are no questions. Without questions, there are no answers. It's ok to find inspiration in science fiction novels and to dream about things some people can’t quite imagine yet.
4. Take Your Well-being Seriously
From what I saw during my limited time at Google, as a company, they take wellbeing extremely seriously. As part of our day, we had a member of the mindfulness team come lead us in a mindfulness exercise. If Google is willing to invest money in the wellbeing (physical, mental and emotional) of their employees, you can assume that it's pretty important. Quality work starts with you. To be a better you, you need to make a better you. Be conscious, be purposeful, and above all, take your wellbeing seriously.
5. Be Flexible
One of the most provoking exercises for me was also one of the most simple. It was something we all know: Rock, Paper, Scissors. But there was a twist. Three-hundred students in a room played and they set out to find a single champion. They knew there'd be losers, and that was part of the twist. If you lost, you become the biggest fan of the person who won. It ended up becoming the most intense games of Rock, Paper, Scissors that I've ever experienced. But what was really cool was that even though the majority of us lost, we were eager to cheer for those who beat us. We wanted them to win. The life lesson there is to be flexible. Realize that your idea might not always be the winning idea but if you cheer for the person who does win, you win. And if you're lucky, you win big!
6. Don't Be Afraid to Fail Quickly (and Often)
The last thing I got from Google is to not let a fear of failure control you. Be motivated by the idea that you might fail, and as a result, you’ll receive a unique opportunity to learn from it. Don’t be discouraged or fearfully cautious. Be driven by dreams and not fears. Go out and do the right thing!